It was 2007 and Allison Kapp was attending a food allergy conference when she decided to stop by the Food Allergy Canada booth (then known as Anaphylaxis Canada). At that time in her life Allison was feeling pretty low, struggling with the psychological and social aspects of managing food allergy. While she herself is allergy-free, both of her sons have food allergies. One is allergic to egg and milk, and the other is allergic to egg and fish.
After speaking with two women at the conference, she decided she wanted to start her own food allergy support group, the Regina Anaphylaxis Awareness and Education Group, in order to meet other parents of children with food allergies. Their first meeting in January 2008 was small with Allison and only three other parents. Today the group has grown to 20 members.
Even though she is a Registered Dietitian, Allison still has days where she can’t think of what she should make for dinner. She remembered back to when she was first figuring out how to live with food allergies and how hard that was for her. She recalls looking at cookbooks for recipes that could adapt and highlighting the ones she thought would work easily. From there she started experimenting with many different recipes. As allergy-free products were not as easy to find back then, she felt she had hit the jackpot the day she discovered Nayonaise (egg-free mayo).
Life has changed significantly since her sons were first diagnosed. People can now get a multitude of ideas from the Internet and can join social media groups; there are more allergy-free products available now as well.
For those looking to start their own support group, Allison has a few pieces of advice, the most important being to never get discouraged by the turnout. If you have in-person meetings, sometimes you will get a good turnout, and sometimes only a few people will show up. It’s important to keep going whether you have twenty members or two. In order to make sure attendance is high, ask your group members what day and time works best for them to meet. People’s schedules are busy and childcare can be a barrier to attending meetings.
Another tip for increasing your group numbers is to invite an allergist to speak at your meetings. Allison found that people came out in droves if an allergist was a guest speaker.
Finally, don’t try and do it all alone! If you know parents who need support and are interested in the group, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask for help.
Thanks Allison for sharing your story!
To connect with the Regina Anaphylaxis Awareness and Education Group or one of our other support groups, visit our support group page. If there isn’t one in your community, we’ll help you get one started.