Red Sneakers for Oakley Launches Food Allergy Campaign to Keep Families Safe on Thanksgiving

Red Sneakers for Oakley today announced the launch of a food allergy awareness campaign to keep families safe on Thanksgiving. During this time of year, families across America come together to celebrate the holiday of giving thanks. For most families, this celebration focuses on food: a traditional meal of turkey, stuffing, vegetables, and, pies. It should be a time of joy and merriment, not one of tragedy, as was the case for the Debbs Family.

One year ago, Robert and Merrill Debbs, and their twin children Oakley and Olivia, were on vacation visiting family in Maine over the Thanksgiving holiday. Their son, Oakley, 11 years old, ate a piece of cake that contained walnut extract and suffered a severe reaction that would lead to his passing a few days later. In the wake of their son’s tragic outcome from anaphylaxis, Robert and Merrill founded Red Sneakers for Oakley, a nonprofit named after Oakley’s favorite sneakers, to spread awareness about the dangers of food allergies.

This Thanksgiving, Red Sneakers for Oakley is urging families to take precautions to ensure that their family members and friends with food allergies remain safe with a list of 10 Tips:

  1. Always ask. When preparing food for multiple guests, always ask if anyone has a food allergy and be mindful of the ingredients you use in preparation.
  2. Call ahead. If going over to someone else’s house for dinner or other gatherings, be sure to inform the hosts of your food allergies. They could ensure a safe environment before you arrive and avoid the awkward rush to put something away.
  3. Don’t use and reuse. Food allergens can be spread through kitchen utensils. Don’t use the same serving spoon you use for the pecan pie for the nut-free pumpkin pie. Avoid cross-contamination.
  4. Check gifts closely. Well-meaning relatives may bring food items to your home or send gift baskets. Ask about ingredients, and look closely at labels.
  5. Fly safely. If flying to see relatives, check with your airline about their food allergy protocols and policies.
  6. Learn the language. If traveling overseas, learn how to say your allergy in that country’s language. Make flash cards with written warnings.
  7. Speak up. Be sure to tell your friends and family about your food allergies and what they need to do in case you have a reaction. Have an emergency action plan.
  8. Never leave home without it. Make sure you always have an epinephrine injector on hand in the event of allergen exposure. Better yet, make it two.
  9. Know the symptoms. Allergic reactions can range from hives to nausea to trouble breathing. When more than one internal system is involved, act fast.
  10. Inject first, then call 911. If you suspect anaphylaxis, use your epinephrine auto-injector. Then, call 911.

17 million people in the U.S. suffer from food allergies, including all those at risk for life-threatening anaphylaxis. A person goes to the ER with a food allergy reaction every two minutes, and there are 90,000 reported cases of anaphylaxis every year.*

On the one-year anniversary of Oakley Debbs’ passing from anaphylactic shock, Red Sneakers for Oakley urges people to understand the severity of food allergies and to wear red sneakers for food allergy awareness. “No parent should ever have to suffer the pain of losing a child,” said Merrill Debbs. “With proper awareness and consideration, you might be able to prevent a fatal anaphylactic reaction from food allergies.”

Using online and offline media, Red Sneakers for Oakley hopes to reach households across the U.S. through its social media campaign and collateral news media distribution. Following these simple tips is one way to be better prepared in the event you or someone you know has a food allergy on Thanksgiving, and every day of the year.


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