This article was originally published in Media Planet’s Fighting Allergies campaign. Find it here. *Please note that events listed are not necessarily allergy free, but allergy aware and/or accommodating.
Life as an allergy mom can be pretty lonely. After our precious child is diagnosed with a life-threatening allergy to an everyday food, it can take a while to adjust. And as we navigate these new (and often) scary waters, it may start to feel as though we’ve lost our tribe.
We feel guilty as we opt out of social events hosted by friends or family who just don’t understand the dangers of cross contamination and “may contain” warnings. Feelings of guilt are replaced by sadness as invitations become fewer and farther between. And then possibly resentment if they stop inviting us altogether.
Cue that moment when we realize we need to build our own (teal) village. From scratch.
In my case, it was the launch of MomsTO that inspired me to create a safe alternative for allergy mamas. I decided if I couldn’t safely attend a ‘mommy & me’ event with my food-allergic babe in tow, I’d have to create an allergy-safe version myself.
And so #AllergyMom Meetups were born. And with it, a community of mamas who DO still want to be social — they just need to feel safe, included, and welcome. And sometimes that’s as simple as hanging out with other moms that get it.
If you’re an allergy mom on the lookout for safe activities or events to join with your child, look no further! I’ve compiled a list of local options that fit into one of the following categories: (1) allergy-friendly, (2) free of the top 10 allergens, or (3) 100% food free.
1. #AllergyMom Meetups. Every couple of months, a local allergy mom in both Toronto and Ottawa host meetups at allergy-friendly eating spots in their respective cities. Browse photos, or sign up for Allergy Mom Alerts to stay in the loop.
2. Top 10 free cookie decorating. Every Sunday, Toronto’s much-loved Hype Food Co. gives its young patrons the opportunity to decorate some yummy cookies that are free of the top 10 allergens. Check it out.
3. Baby Mama Fitness. Allergy moms who want to get fit with their babes by their side simply need to alert the organizer of their child’s allergies, and she will ask other mamas to refrain from bringing in unsafe eats during the duration of your course. Find out more.
4. Walk for Andrea. Created in memory of Andrea Mariano, this fundraiser brings the community together every September to walk, remember Andrea, and raise funds towards allergy research. With fun activities for the kids and foods that are free of many of the top allergens, this is a great spot for allergy families to spend a pleasant morning together. Register here.
5. Tough Nutter. This October 6th, allergy kids in grades 1-8 can have fun participating in an age-appropriate obstacle course and raising funds for Sick Kids Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis program while they’re at it. There will also be an activity zone for the littler ones, and allergy-friendly snacks onsite. Get tickets.
6. Food-Free Trunk or Treat. Going on its second year, this super fun Halloween event is completely food free with the goal of including ALL kids. Allergy kiddos get to dress up in costume, and go ‘trunk-or-treating’ for non-food treats. It’s a great opportunity for children with less common allergies to participate in all the Halloween fun without worry. Check out last year’s event and register here.
7. High tea. Calling all Alice and Wonderland lovers! Sorelle and Co. offers an out-of-this-world experience for allergy mamas and their kids with their top 8 free high tea — available at their Vaughn, Yorkville, and Etobicoke locations. Make reservations.
8. Birthday parties @ Jill and the Beanstalk. This lovely little spot prides itself on its cleanliness, and will happily accommodate allergy kiddos if a request is made. Want to host your kiddo’s birthday — or any event, really — in a space that makes you feel welcome and comfortable? Check out this spot.
9. Free From & Allergy-Friendly Expo. This expo has a variety of top 10 free, vegan, and gluten-free products onsite, which means you’ll find an assortment of both safe — and depending on your allergies — unsafe foods on display. So be sure to check the poster-sized allergen statements available at each booth before throwing a free sample in your goodie bag. The best part? The Kidz Zone is completely food free*. Get your ticket here.
*That said, I’d treat it like any public space and give your kiddo’s hands a wipe afterwards — considering there are foods with allergens being served in the larger vicinity and a child in the playground may have just eaten a food that contains your child’s allergen.
10. Top 10 Challenge. Is your child allergic to peanuts? Then try avoiding dairy or sesame for the day. This awareness initiative teaches empathy and can be done from the comfort of your kitchen table! But it can also be brought into the classroom as a wonderful tool to encourage understanding and compassion in our kids. Want to bring this initiative to your school? Get in touch.
If you’re an allergy mama in the GTA who’s in search of your very own teal village, look no further! This list covers some of the most allergy-friendly fun in town. Ready to get social again? It’s easy when you’re hanging out with other moms that get it.
This post was written by AllergyBites founder, Kathleen O’Hagan. Kathleen is a writer, a foodie, and the mom of a toddler with multiple food allergies. Want to help make a difference? Contact Kathleen about volunteering for the Top 10 Challenge fundraiser.
Friendly. Supportive. Encouraging.
Want to join a community of like-minded food allergy folk? Join the AllergyBites Community on Facebook.