I am a local resident, and have lived in town for nearly my entire life. Year after year, I enjoy the Halloween Parade, making homemade costumes and looking forward to the creativity of the parents and children with so much excitement and joy, it was easily my favorite day of the year. Two years ago, things changed when I became a mother, and found out that my son, like 1 in every 13 children, has severe food allergies, and my son’s are life threatening.
Last year, I attended the parade with my son, and felt as though I spent the entire time dodging candy bombs, headed his way, loaded with allergens, which could trigger anaphylaxis at anytime. At the time, I didn’t give much thought to skipping the parade, I just did what most parents with allergic children do, we adapt, protect, guard and carry on, trying our very best not to exclude our children from the daily joys of life. Recently, I was inspired by an episode of the TV show Atypical, where a high school adapted a dance environment to make it more accessible for the students with autism and or sensory disorders.
So, I began searching the web and came across the Teal Pumpkin Project, where participants find safe, non-food “treats” for trick-or-treaters with food allergies. Smart, dedicated and caring people have already created a perfect solution to the allergic child’s dilemma on Halloween and I wanted to find a way to implement a Teal Pumpkin Project component into our annual event.
What is the Teal Pumpkin Project: Here is a description from the website:
Putting a teal pumpkin on your doorstep means you have non-food treats available, such as glow sticks or small toys. This simple act promotes inclusion for trick-or-treaters with food allergies or other conditions. Become a Teal Pumpkin Project Insider to receive resources and updates straight to your inbox to help you spread the word and make this year’s Teal Pumpkin Project the most memorable – yet!
First I meet with Lorraine Labonne-Storch, the Executive Director, Maplewood Chamber of Commerce, who organizes the annual parade. Lorraine was enthusiastic and supportive from the start! She brought the idea to the Chamber of Commerce and to this year’s parade sponsor Allison Ziefert Real Estate Group, Keller Williams Mid-Town Direct.
Soon thereafter the Maplewood Lions Club, of which I am the membership chair, joined the efforts and sponsored the Teal Pumpkin Project portion of the parade. The Maplewood Lions Club President Cornelis van den Hout was ready to do whatever it took to get this project in motion, and in time for this year’s event!
In just three weeks time, what started as an idea is now a promising new addition to the parade, one which the Maplewood Lions will continue to sponsor. We all agree, maintaining Maplewood’s inclusive reputation requires all hands on deck, and we must look at issues such as these that normally isolate children or exclude them unknowingly. It is likely that everyone knows, loves or cares for someone with a food allergy, and we must be careful to protect them and include them, especially in our community celebrations.
The Maplewood Lions Club will be assisted by volunteers from Columbia High School and Seton Hall University to distribute over 10,000 non-food items at the Halloween parade! Parents of children with food allergies, be sure to find us, we have many goodies for you too, and don’t forget to inform your older children with allergies to find the Teal Ambassadors for their treats at the parade. Please look for the Maplewood Lions Teal Ambassadors, they will be wearing teal shirts, and handing out exciting toys, trinkets and treats while supplies last.
The Teal Pumpkin Project (TPP) has a plethora of information on the foodallergy.org website.