Unbelievably it was 10 years ago that about 50 of us gathered in Crystal City, Virginia to talk, share, explore and breathe a collective sigh of relief about food allergies.
Finally, we were in a whole roomful of people who "got it. " We were in a room with other kids and moms( and maybe two dads) who knew exactly what we were dealing with. And we were laughing and sharing tips and-- circling DC on a monument tour with a bus driver who was lost!
That weekend was life-changing. I personally had never met another family whose kid was allergic to more than one food. I had never met another family who found it difficult to travel and who knew how to bake a gluten-free, egg-free,milk-free birthday cake. It was wonderful!
My son was the "keynote speaker"-- at 12! And parents were not allowed in the room as he talked about dealing with food allergies in school, after school, sports teams and socially. I think it was a brilliant stroke by the FAAN organizers to keep the teens and the parents totally separate.
And the floodgates opened. The kids couldn't share enough about their triumphs and trials. AND, how they dealt with them day to day. The relief and joy and positive attitudes were unbounded.
My son still has friends from that first Teen Summit. As do I.
My friends and I continue to share the stress of food challenges. Or college jitters. Or what petition just got passed in our respective states. Or what to make for lunch.
Of course in 10 years the Teen Summit has grown. Now, over 100 teens and preteens attend. And there are speakers for the teens and parents for two and a half days solid. But there's still lots of conversation and sharing and community. And always that big sigh of relief that everybody gets it.
In 10 years food allergies have gone from being practically unheard of to a condition to be accommodated. By law.
It's been a journey, and the friends I made at the first Teen Summit have been there every step of the way.
It's the place to be in November-- see you there!