A little over a year ago, Jillian Kemp did something out of her comfort zone and started her own allergy support group in the Dresden, Ontario area. Jillian’s son has peanut and tree nut allergies, and she had found that there was not a lot of information or knowledge about food allergies within rural communities. Jillian began looking for ways to share information, to form friendships and to help raise awareness for food allergies within her surrounding communities.
The Dresden Area Allergy Support Group now meets every other month at the Dresden Sidestreet Youth Centre and their goal is to provide a safe and supportive place to meet and form friendships, and to discuss allergy information and the struggles and the successes within the allergy world. The group consists of mothers who have children with food allergies, teachers, daycare providers and friends or family members.
When asked how this support group has helped her family and others who attend, Jillian explained that, “our support group is helping our small-town areas gain a better understanding about the severity of food allergies. We do this through personal discussion with community members, participating in local health and wellness venue events, hosting our Teal Pumpkin Project Halloween Party and having Red and Teal Day within our local elementary school this year”.
In addition to these activities, the Dresden Area Allergy Support Group hosts a yearly EpiPen® training and First Aid night where family, friends and community members are educated on EpiPens, talk about First Aid responses with a certified instructor and ask questions about avoidance and responding to an allergic reaction.
For Jillian personally, some positive outcomes of having a child with food allergies are that her family has become more aware of the food they are eating, and they are reading labels constantly. This has led to her and her husband becoming advocates for their children at school, and with their doctors, family members, or the public at sporting events.
For anyone thinking of starting a support group in their area, Jillian says that, “if you feel the need is there to start a local support group then do it! You might be surprised at how many other allergy parents out there are feeling and thinking those exact same things you are”. Jillian explained that she has met some wonderful people through their support group and together they have created awareness events within their own town. These events were something Jillian only used to read about and now she is organizing them with her group!
Jillian offers the following pieces of advice for someone who is newly diagnosed:
- Take it one day at a time
- Ask LOTS of questions
- Become educated and knowledgeable about your own allergies and how to help others around you understand the severity (read, research, take notes)
- Read food labels EVERY time
- Join a support group
- Always carry your epinephrine auto-injector
Thanks Jillian for sharing your story!
To connect with the Dresden Area Allergy Support 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.