CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Have you noticed any teal colored pumpkins around your neighborhood? Wonder what that's all about? It's an effort to make Halloween a safe holiday for the many children with dangerous food allergies.
Halloween is an especially scary holiday for children with food allergies. Common, and dangerous allergens like peanuts can end up in their candy buckets, making for a terrifying night.
"It's beyond scary, it's life threatening, potentially," said Lindsey Geiss, with the Northeast Ohio Food Allergy Network.
"It's very scary to send him out down the street to knock on someone's door to give him something that he's potentially super allergic to," said food allergy mom, Kelci Cotter.
Children like Lyla Meldrum can't even touch things like peanuts, tree nuts. Her mom has to be on high alert at all times.
"She gets it out and she wipes my Halloween pumpkin and gets all the yuck out of there," said the 4 year old.
"Halloween was worrisome as she got older and started realizing that there was candy available, and how do we do it?" Vikki Meldrum asked.
But parents like Meldrum now have a strategy to go forward thanks to the Teal Pumpkin Project.
It's a national effort to increase awareness of food allergies and a way to make Halloween more fun and safe for everyone.
The idea is to provide non food treats, kept separate from traditional candy, for those with food allergies. Then display a teal pumpkin to show your support.
"If they have a teal pumpkin, it means it's safe for me to go to, because they have toys," said Lyla, who plans to dress up as a hot dog this Halloween.
So what's an example of something safe that you might pass out? Food allergy parents suggest stickers, spider rings, or bubbles. And some moms say that these options are much cheaper than most candy you'll pass out.
Geiss said inclusion is the goal.
"The objective is to have everyone included, children with food allergies, children with other health issues like diabetes, and it also addresses the issue of childhood obesity as well," she said.
Cotter says she's relieved this allows her son to participate in regular kid stuff.
"He's three and a half, I don't want to tell him that he can't do things. He's been wearing his Halloween costume for weeks now," she said.
Lyla's mom says they had 100% participation in their neighborhood the first year they spread the word about the Teal Pumpkin Project.
"We have a neighborhood of about 30 houses and we went to each home and delivered a letter that said 'Hey, you know us but maybe you don't know that Lyla has these allergies," said Meldrum.
"It means everything to know that the community is behind us," said Geiss.
Food allergy parents say they're not asking you to give up the traditional candy, just expand your offerings. And soon, they hope this movement will extend to other holidays.
FARE & TEAL PUMPKIN PROJECT NATIONAL RESOURCES:
Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) website
Teal Pumpkin Project website
Teal Pumpkin Project Free Resources, including signs, flyers, coloring pages and more
Teal Pumpkin Project Sign: Non-Food Treats Available Here (free to download/print)
Teal Pumpkin Project Stickers: Can be used on treat bags or for children to wear to indicate they need allergy-friendly treats (free to download/print)
Teal Pumpkin Project press release
FARE Blog post by a local food allergy mom, Vikki Meldrum, who shares her family's Teal Pumpkin Project neighborhood success story
NEOFAN LOCAL RESOURCES AND ALLERGY-FRIENDLY HALLOWEEN EVENT:
Northeast Ohio Food Allergy Network (NEOFAN — a member of the FARE support group network) website
NEOFAN Blog post by a local food allergy mom, Lindsey Geiss, who shares ways to spread Teal Pumpkin Project awareness, including a template letter food allergy parents can send to neighbors
Eton Chagrin Boulevard Boo-tique Trick-or-Treat Event in Partnership with NEOFAN and FARE to offer allergy-friendly and non-food treats in addition to traditional candy — Oct.r 26, 2017 5-7 p.m.
SOCIAL MEDIA AND INTERACTIVE TEAL PUMPKIN PROJECT MAP:
Share your Teal Pumpkin Project photos and more using the Hashtags #TealPumpkinProject and #northeastohiofoodallergynetwork
Teal Pumpkin Project Participation Map — Register your household to add it to this interactive map:
Follow NEOFAN on Facebook
Follow FARE on Facebook
Follow FARE on Instagram