The Sabrina Shannon Memorial Award is a Food Allergy Canada sponsored award, made possible through an educational grant from TD Securities. Two individuals in post-secondary school who have contributed significantly to the food allergy community in Canada are selected for a $1,000 award.
This year, our winners are Marissa Kaminski and Ella VanderLelie. We commend them for their strong lifelong commitment to raising allergy awareness and educating others.
Meet Marissa Kaminski
After witnessing her grandmother experience an anaphylactic reaction to cashews, Marissa became passionate about raising food allergy awareness and reducing risk. She extended this passion to her work as a Child Development Supervisor in an after-school care program in Richmond, BC.
A 24-year-old student at the University of British Columbia, Marissa has also worked with children at her local community centre for nine years. After meeting a child who experienced anaphylaxis at home and anxiety after the incident, Marissa took it upon herself to investigate ways to reduce risks at the community centre. She also reached out to Vancouver Coastal Health to receive guidance on improving the centre’s overall safety plan, and this resulted in step-by-step action plans on what to do if a reaction occurs.
Marissa then helped develop interactive and informative workshops and training to educate the staff about risk reduction, emergency protocols and their role to help protect those at risk of anaphylaxis. She continues to be part of new solutions to help minimize risk, such as a procedure to ensure kids carry their epinephrine auto-injector from room-to-room. The centre now has designated “Epi Boxes” for the youngest children, so staff know the location of devices at all times.
Although Marissa does not have food allergy herself, her dedication to allergy awareness is truly commendable. She has both the drive and passion to help reduce risks for others with the condition in her community.
We congratulate Marissa Kaminski as a well-deserving recipient of this year’s award and look forward to her continual impact as she continues to be a champion for those with food allergy.
Meet Ella VanderLelie
Ella is a 17-year old from Burlington, ON who will be entering her first year at Brock University for a Bachelor of Science in Nursing this fall. She enjoys volleyball, field hockey, tennis and is an active volunteer in her high school and greater community. Ella is allergic to egg, milk, peanut, tree nuts and legumes.
Diagnosed with food allergy as an infant, Ella learned from a very young age how to advocate for herself. Throughout grade school, she raised awareness of food allergy by speaking openly with her peers and teachers about allergy risks associated with classroom celebrations and field trips. While in grade school, she helped coordinate a school-wide allergy-awareness assembly and later gave a speech on food allergy to her grade seven class.
Ella learned first-hand the challenges of advocating for change when she expanded her efforts to a municipal level. In 2016, she did a deputation to Burlington City Council in support of stock epinephrine (an epinephrine auto-injector that is not prescribed to a specific person and can be used in an emergency) being available in public spaces. Although the motion was not approved, it gave her the confidence and connections to raise awareness at a higher level. Her information and story were also leveraged by the Burlington Firefighter’s Association who lobbied successfully to secure EpiPens on their fire trucks.
Ella has been an active member of Food Allergy Canada projects through publicly sharing her story and experiences. She volunteered to be in an educational video where participants shared details of allergic reactions that they experienced with a goal of empowering others to effectively manage anaphylaxis.
We congratulate Ella on all of her efforts and are proud to name her a recipient of this year’s award.