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5 Questions for: Andrea’s Walk organizer Jyoti Parmar

andreaThe Walk for Andrea will be taking place on Sunday, October 2, 2016 at Milne Dam Conservation Park and Trail in Markham, Ontario.

The 2.3 km walk is organized in remembrance of Andrea Mariano, a college freshman at Queens University who died after suffering from anaphylaxis in September 2015. Funds raised will go to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Research Program at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.

We recently spoke with Jyoti Parmar, who founded the walk with her husband Peter Deboran. We talked about what inspired them to start the event, their work in the community and Andrea’s legacy.

Food Allergy Canada: How did you get involved in the food allergy awareness community?

Jyoti: Two of my three children have food allergies. My husband Peter and I have been advocating for them since their diagnosis. We feel advocacy is necessary since it can be difficult for people to understand how they can accommodate our children. This led us to get involved.

Food Allergy Canada: Can you tell us a bit about the Markham Library initiative?

Jyoti: Peter and I noticed that more and more people were feeding food to their children in our local libraries. We would see food debris and residue on reading materials and on tables. We made a presentation to the Markham Public Library Board in November 2015. Based on our presentation they conducted a pilot project of a food-free children’s section at the Cornell Library. After the pilot, the Library Board decided to designate the children’s areas as food free in all of their locations. We are very pleased that the Board recognized our concerns, and acted upon them!

Food Allergy Canada: What inspired you to start Andrea’s Walk?

Jyoti: The loss of Andrea Mariano intensified our desire to find a cure [for food allergy]. We wanted to do something concrete to help other children including our own, who will inevitably be leaving home for school or for work opportunities.  We also feel that more children with food allergies are moving into their teens and early 20s and that this group is the most vulnerable to anaphylaxis. We decided to organize a fundraising walk because we wanted to raise funds for a cure.

Food Allergy Canada: Andrea’s family is on the planning committee for the walk. Could you say a few words about Andrea’s legacy and working with her family?

Jyoti: Andrea’s parents have had to endure the worst type of pain – the loss of a child.  Yet, their faith and community gives them the strength to go on.  Working with them is inspiring as they continue to keep the memory of Andrea alive. We hope Andrea’s legacy will be finding a cure, raising awareness and increasing safety for food allergic individuals.

Food Allergy Canada: What are you looking forward to the most about the walk?

Jyoti: We look forward to joining with others to focus attention on finding a cure for food allergies. More public understanding is needed and we see the walk as a chance to energize the community.

Food Allergy Canada: Thanks so much, Jyoti. We look forward to seeing you at the walk.

Jyoti: Thank you.