The 4th Annual Walk for Andrea is taking place on Sunday, September 22, 2019 at 10:30 am at Milne Park in Markham, Ontario.
The Walk for Andrea was founded to honour Andrea Mariano, who passed away from an anaphylactic reaction on campus during her first few weeks at Queen’s University in 2015.
We recently spoke with Kristina Mariano, Andrea’s older sister, about the event, how the support has grown over the years, and her advocacy work related to food allergy.
The Walk for Andrea is coming up this September. Can you tell us about it? What is the mission and goal of the Walk?
The Walk for Andrea is a fundraiser for the SickKids’ Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Program. This year is the fourth annual walk, it’s been a success every year and it keeps growing and growing!
First and foremost, our goal is to raise funds for food allergy research and to find a cure for food allergy through our partnership with SickKids. In the last four years, we have raised over $105,000. Second, it’s a great way for the food allergy community to get together, spread awareness and educate others on the severity of food allergy and the different topics that come along with it. It’s wonderful for those with food allergy to know that they are supported by their communities and organizations.
Also, we have a lot of different visitors and organizations that join the Walk and set up booths with their allergy-friendly products.
How many participants are you expecting?
Every year the number grows. Last year we had around 400 participants, and this year, we’re expecting 400 to 500 participants.
You took on a bigger role this year by organizing the Walk. How has that experience been?
This year I took over for Jyoti Parmar and Peter Deboran who were former chairs of the Walk. They were responsible for organizing the Walk, including leading the committee, securing sponsors, managing social media, and day-of logistics. Jyoti and Peter are still involved and have been guiding me throughout the year on the process of organizing the Walk and I’m very grateful for their support.
Taking over their role has opened my eyes to how much it takes to organize a fundraiser event like this. It involves a lot of connecting with different sponsors and groups and making sure everyone is on the same page and doing their part. It’s a lot of work, but very worth it in the end.
It’s inspiring to see so many people come together to honour your sister and support food allergy awareness and research. How has the support grown over the years?
Social media is a huge part of getting the word out there about the Walk. Every year we have different parent groups and other food allergy organizations that reach out and share how they’re interested in joining or supporting in any way they can. The Walk has also inspired people to start groups in their own communities. Every year the support we receive has grown and it’s inspiring to see.
What are you looking forward to at this year’s Walk and what can participants look forward to?
I’m looking forward to the allergy-friendly brands and treats we’ll have at the event. Also, seeing the amount of support and people that come out each year is inspiring and motivates us to organize the Walk year after year.
We have been grateful to secure the same sponsors every year. Our top sponsors are Sorelle and Co. and Hype Foods Co. They are all very generous and willing to sponsor every year which we are very grateful for. Sorelle sponsored t-shirts last year and they bring their products and have booths as well.
How will this year’s Walk be different than previous years? Will there be something special?
This year we will have more speakers from organizations dedicated to food allergy, like Food Allergy Canada and SickKids. They will have the platform and opportunity to advocate and share their knowledge of food allergy with families. Before the walk starts, SickKids will speak about the impact of donations, and then my family and I will be saying a few words as well. After the walk, Food Allergy Canada will be sharing their insight, and then SickKids will speak about the progress of food allergy and anaphylaxis research.
You shared your sister’s story and advocated with us for the National Food Allergy Action Plan at our advocacy day on Parliament Hill. How else are you involved in driving food allergy awareness and education?
With my sister’s story, I’m able to connect with others in a unique way and bring an emotional element to the importance of food allergy awareness and education. I enjoy public speaking, so wherever I’m invited to speak or share my sister’s story, I take that opportunity to advocate and educate others about the seriousness of food allergy.
I’ve also been interviewed by Food Allergy Canada, McClean’s magazine, Fil-Can Media, City Life Magazine, and Snap’d to share my sister’s story and promote food allergy awareness. In my daily life, at work, and with my circle of friends and family, I also try to advocate for food allergy. There are always ways in everyday conversations where you can bring up the conversation of food allergy.
Thanks Kristina, we look forward to seeing you at the Walk! Register for this year’s Walk for Andrea at walkforandrea.ca.from the community, Kristina Mariano