LAURINBURG – For little ones like Natalee Jackson, Halloween can be more of a trick than a treat due to food allergies, but there is a movement to include those children in the fun.
The Teal Pumpkin Project is a program promoted by FARE, the Food Allergy Research and Education center a group that works to advance awareness, advocate for children with food allergies and provide resources for parents.
The goal is to ease parents’ apprehension about letting their children trick-or-treat and include children with allergies in the Halloween festivities.
Anyone who is willing to offer alternative treats can participate. Those who join the effort can paint or buy a teal pumpkin and place it outside their home or car for trunk-or-treat. Then, make sure to keep the special non-food treats in a bowl separate from the regular candy.
“There are a lot of people who don’t understand,” said Fronie Jackson, Natalee’s mother. “I didn’t understand before I had her. Last year, we went to Scotch Meadows, and she loved it because of all the houses and all the kids, but I was on edge the whole time. You never know if she’ll come in contact with a kid who has already been eating a Reese’s cup or if someone handing out candy has been eating. It’s dangerous for her.”
Nine-year-old Natalee is allergic to milk and eggs, and she is deathly allergic to peanuts.
“She can’t have chocolate, no marshmallows, and no cookies,” said Jackson.
The Jacksons found out about Natalee’s peanut allergy when she was a year old.
Since then, they have done everything they could to protect her including enrolling Natalee in a study on peanut allergies. The study gradually introduced her to peanuts in order to build up an immunity. The process was excruciating for Natalee and her parents because of the threat of anaphylactic shock from too much exposure. The study did not cure Natalee, but it did help her. Natalee may now have small amounts of peanuts in order to maintain her immunity, but she still cannot have certain goodies because she is still allergic to peanuts. The immunity only keeps her from experiencing life threatening anaphylactic shock.
“She can have hard candies like smarties and sweet tarts, but when we get home, [after trick-or-treating] I separate her candy. She knows not to reach into the bucket until I can go through it,” Jackson said. “She may have a bucket full of candy and only end up with a handful of things she can have.”
Last year, nearly 18,000 families from across the country participated by marking their homes with teal pumpkins.
Participants can also register their home on FARE’s website to be included in an interactive map that shows parents which homes are safe for their children to visit.
“Natalee is used to it, she understands [that she can’t have certain candy], but it would be nice to have more families participate, and she can get things she can use or play with and look forward to when she gets home. And we know there’s nothing in that bucket that’s going to hurt her,” Jackson said. “If we can get more participation, you can map out your route and take your child to those houses.”
There are currently no homes in Scotland County registered to participate.
FARE suggest providing the following types of safe treats: Glow sticks, bracelets, or necklaces pencils, pens, crayons or markers, bubbles, Halloween erasers or pencil toppers,, whistles, kazoos, or noisemakers, bouncy balls, finger puppets or novelty toys, spider rings, vampire fangs, mini notepads, bookmarks or stickers and stencils.
FARE cautions that some non-food items might still contain food allergens. Some types of model clay can contain wheat. They also advise making sure items are latex-free for children who have latex allergies.
For information, to download flyers or materials, or register a home visit email@example.com.
Reach Beth Lawrence 910-506-3169