Sunday, October 19, 2008

The FAAN Walk

The 3rd Atlanta FAAN Walk was yesterday morning and we had a wonderful time! As in years past, we didn't walk alone--we were joined by some very close friends (of the Chosen Family type). I love that people have been willing to participate with us and I hope that will always be the case.

Our friends stayed overnight on Friday and we all woke up early-ish and drove over together. The "slumber" party experience is a whole blog post in itself, so you can well imagine how tired we were. We pretty much just got up, put on our team shirts, threw waffles at the kids, and headed out the door.

It was a beautiful morning for the walk--sunshiny and chilly, but nobody seemed to notice the chill in the air once we got strolling. There was a pretty huge crowd--about 600 participants, and Clark Howard checked in at the same time as me. He's the honorary chairman of our walk--his 9 year old daughter is PA. As he put it later in his speech to the crowd, he and his wife gave their daughter a PB&J when she was 2 and then "she decided to try to die at the lunch table" that day.

It was shocking to hear him just say it like that to the crowd and I was bit worried how Ryan would take it, but he didn't remark on it. In a way, I'm glad Clark stated the bold truth. Sometimes food kills. It's a horrible thing and it's stressful and awful to live with, this knowledge that trace amounts of an otherwise healthy yummy snack could kill my child. When the speeches are made at the Walk, it's hard not to get overwhelmed with emotion--the terrible fright that an accident might happen, the sadness for those who have died, the comraderie of being in a huge crowd of people who "get it" and are as determined as I am to make sure that our kids and other loved ones get to live their lives, despite their allergies.

The walking part was fun, and I'm proud to say that Ryan walked the whole way! Two miles is a bit of a trek for a small kid. And there was music and dancing and hula hoop contests and a big jumpy thing for the kids and facepainting and a clown and lots and lots of free stuff. We snagged a couple more Epi-pen holders since we just can't seem to keep track of them. I got coupons to Cherrybrook Kitchen and I'm very excited about that!

We remembered the camera and had people take pictures of all of us in our shirts, and then the official Walk photographer got us, too. So I hope we make the FAAN website. I'll post the pictures tomorrow or the next day--Sean turns 4 months old tomorrow, so I'm definitely due for some FamBlog updates.

After the event, we all went to Macaroni Grill for lunch. That's a place we've avoided in the last couple of years, after I had read that they couldn't guarantee their yummy bread was nut-free. This was when we were still avoiding tree nuts, before we knew both Ryan and Morgan have no allergies to tree nuts. It was easier just to avoid. But we went anyway, because not having to worry about tree nuts gives us more flexibility and I didn't think they had any menu items with peanuts in them (apart from desserts, of course, which we NEVER do at restaurants for that reason). We talked to the waiter about the peanut allergy, and he brought us a book with menu items that were safe for people with food allergies, broken down by allergen. It was AWESOME. I plan to write their corporate offices about how wonderful that was. It turns out that the bread is safe for PA, and everything on the kids' menu, too. Everything, actually, except the desserts. (Disclaimer: Please do your own research about restaurants--what's safe for us and what works with our comfort level/risk tolerance may not be right for your situation.)

The Atlanta Walk raised over $80,000 for research and I'm so proud. Thank you thank you to everyone who helped us do our share of fundraising. And it's just as important to me that we keep educating others about food allergies, so thank you to everyone who reads this blog and tells somebody about Ryan or me or our stories. I think it's easier to help others "get it" when they hear of or know a real live kid with food allergies. I have friends and family who ask themselves "Would Ryan be able to eat this?" when grocery shopping--even when they aren't anywhere near us or planning to see us. I know people who, every time they see a fire engine, recall the night when one was parked in front of my house. I have friends who refrain from eating peanut butter on days we're planning to get together, not because I ask them to--I'm not sure it would even be necessary really--but because they want to, because they share my worries.

Ryan had fun at the walk, too. I don't really know if he feels that sense of community yet, or if that's even important to him. He did enjoy himself and got a free Epi-pen hat and t-shirt and clapped very hard at the announcement that we raised $80,000. He knows that the money we raised will help and that we were there for him. And I suppose that's all that really matters at this point. Plus, he had fun bossing us all around on the walk, making sure his friend didn't get too far ahead of us (as she is wont to do) and wondering aloud at the novelty of walking in the middle of a road meant for cars, and saying hello to the fireman in the fire engine. Here's hoping he never has to see them at our house again!

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