Colored pumpkins raise awareness
Note: This story was originally published Oct. 17, 2014 but the information within is still valid in 2015.
Sometime over the next few days, Cara Moffett of Easley will buy a pumpkin, gather up some paintbrushes and paint the pumpkin teal with her 3-year-old son as part of an initiative she hopes will help raise awareness for children with food allergies.
Moffett's toddler is too young to understand his food allergies, but mommy does.
"I also am a schoolteacher, and I know that many kids suffer from food allergies, obesity and even sensitivities to food colorings," she said. "I hope to display our teal pumpkin to raise awareness for kids with food allergies and sensitivities and support FARE, but most of all to be inclusive to all children. Non-food items are given out for Halloween so all kids have a safe treat."
The Teal Pumpkin Project is a national initiative started by Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), a nonprofit organization whose mission is to find a cure for food allergies and keep individuals with food allergies safe and included. FARE is encouraging communities to raise awareness of food allergies by providing non-food treats for trick-or-treaters and placing teal-colored pumpkins — the color of food allergy awareness — in front of their homes. Participants can also download and print a free sign FARE has included on its website.
Veronica LaFemina, vice president of communications at FARE, said this is the first year the project is being promoted nationwide. The idea was inspired by an affiliate, the Food Allergy Community of East Tennessee, who started the project in its communities last year.
LaFemina said she hopes the project will become a nationwide tradition in future and encourages parents of children without food allergies to participate.
"Food allergies can be life-threatening, and they affect one in 13 children in the U.S.," she said. "That means it's likely at least one of the kids trick-or-treating in your neighborhood has food allergies. Providing non-food treats is a great way to ensure all of the trick-or-treaters who come to your door will leave with a smile and a treat they can enjoy."
Placing a teal-painted pumpkin or hanging FARE's sign in front of your house signals to families managing food allergies that you have safe non-food treats available, LaFemina said.
"Non-food treats such as stickers, glow sticks, Halloween-themed pencils and other small trinkets can be bought in bulk and are inexpensive," she said.
LaFemina said parents of children with food allergies can feel excluded by events such as Halloween trick-or-treating and hopes the initiative will become a national staple.
"Food allergies are not a lifestyle choice – they are life-altering and potentially life-threatening," she said. "Halloween is about having fun with your friends, neighbors and community. By providing non-food treats, you are helping children with food allergies enjoy a safe, happy Halloween just like their friends. And that moment when you see a child get to have a treat that they don't have to trade out or give away is really something special."
For more information or to download a free printable sign, visit http://www.foodallergy.org/teal-pumpkin-project.
Purple pumpkins, too
Similar to the Teal Pumpkin Project raising awareness for food allergies, the Purple Pumpkin Project is a national initiative of the Epilepsy Foundation to raise awareness of epilepsy.
According to the foundation, one in 26 people in America will develop epilepsy and 65 million people around the globe have already been diagnosed. Epilepsy is a neurological condition which affects the nervous system, causing seizures which can be life threatening. More deaths are caused each year from seizures than breast cancer, but the cause gets little attention, according to Kim Bennett of Simpsonville, whose 8-year-old daughter, Taylor, has epilepsy.
The Purple Pumpkin Project started in 2012 in Connecticut through a Facebook page, which quickly gained likes from across the nation.
Bennett said her daughter experienced two life-threatening seizures as a result of her disorder when she was only 5.
"And there is no known cure at this time," she said.
To raise awareness, Bennett will join the project by painting a pumpkin purple this Halloween. Participants are encouraged to raise awareness by posting photos of the pumpkins to Facebook with an explanation of the project.
For more information, visit www.epilepsy.com.