It has been a whirlwind decade for Kyle Dine, food allergy educator and musician. Kyle has been working with Food Allergy Canada since 2008 creating resources and programs to support teens and youth, including leading the Allergy Pals/Allies program and the Youth Advisory Panel. Over the past decade, he has become a trusted food allergy educator and musician, performing engaging allergy awareness assemblies in elementary schools across North America. His empowering and educational messages about living with food allergy has reached over 1 million children. Kyle has multiple food allergies, he is allergic to peanut, tree nut, egg, fish, mustard, crustaceans and molluscs.
We are so excited to have Kyle leading our youth sessions at our upcoming 2020 national conference. The half-day sessions will be lively and informative, filled with exciting speakers and experts, and will include activities to help youth feel more empowered about managing their food allergy.
We spoke with Kyle to learn what youth participants can expect at the conference.
Tell us a little bit about your experience growing up with food allergy and your involvement with Food Allergy Canada over the years.
My history with food allergy is personal as I was diagnosed with multiple food allergies as a toddler. Growing up in the 80s and 90s, I had my share of struggles – especially as a teenager trying to fit in. After one severe anaphylactic reaction during university, I knew I needed to be better at handling my food allergies. I started by educating myself, which led to educating others. This sparked a passion in me to help others with food allergy learn more about it at an early age – well before they experience a “wake up call reaction” like I did.
This led me to working with Food Allergy Canada where I have been responsible for youth programming and resources since 2008. I am most proud of the Youth Advisory Panel that we have grown over the years, which is comprised of 60+ youth volunteers from across the country. Through consulting with this amazing group, we have been able to create websites, books, and videos specifically targeted at youth with food allergy. Since 2014, I have overseen our Allergy Pals/Allies online mentorship program. Our team of youth mentors have helped nearly 1,000 kids across Canada feel supported and empowered to manage their food allergy more confidently through weekly online sessions. (The next session will start in April/May, registration will open soon!)
You’ll be leading the youth sessions for our 2020 national conference this May. What are you excited about for the conference and what can youth participants look forward to?
Our conferences tend to be one of the most rewarding experiences for all involved. Being a part of an allergy community, I find we connect more and more online, which makes it extra special when we have an event where you can get valuable face-to-face time. All in one day you can connect with allergists, researchers, industry professionals, and others in your position to share experiences and tips with.
The youth sessions feature a peer-to-peer learning model that injects fun and teambuilding, while interactively educating on key topics. We are planning some really cool activities that will put attendees in dynamic learning situations about label reading, communicating allergies effectively, and even how to stand up to bullies. It’s truly a transformational morning that helps participants feel supported and teaches them how to become more of their own advocate.
We’re having two sessions for youth, one for ages 7-11 and one for ages 12-17. How will the sessions differ? Share the plan with us!
We have an empowering and educational morning prepared for youth of all ages. We’ll kick-off the morning all together as we hear a motivating talk on living with food allergy from an exciting special guest (to be announced soon!). We’ll then split up into two groups where youth will hear from more special guests and collaborate on fun and informative activities.
Session for 7-11-year-olds: This is a NEW session that we’re excited to offer this year. The session will begin with a small group activity called “label detective”, where youth will work together to learn how to read ingredient labels and find safe foods. Next, youth will head to an informative session with Samara Carroll, registered social worker and food allergy counsellor, who will speak on effective and healthy strategies for managing anxiety and bullying. I will then speak on how youth can rock their food allergy and take on more responsibility with managing their food allergy. Next, our Youth Advisory Panel will lead an interactive session on how to bring up food allergy in social situations, like with friends and teammates. Lastly, youth will brainstorm together and learn ways on how they can fundraise and advocate – there will be a prize for top ideas!
We’re also offering an afternoon activity session for 7-11-year-olds, so they can enjoy the rest of the afternoon with their new friends! This session is adult supervised allowing parents the flexibility to attend the afternoon sessions, while their child enjoys activities, crafts, and games.
Session for 12-17-year-olds: Our Youth Advisory Panel will begin with a small group activity on brainstorming ways of educating others like friends, teachers, coaches, and at restaurants. Next, teens will head to an informative session with Samara Carroll, registered social worker and food allergy counsellor, who will speak on effective and healthy strategies for managing anxiety and bullying. We’ll then hear from Amanda Orlando, blogger and cookbook author, on new ways teens can expand their diet and nutrition while avoiding their allergens and keeping anxiety in check. Then, I will speak on how teens can rock their food allergy, and tips for dating and socializing. Finally, our Youth Advisory Panel will conclude the session by sharing ways to fundraise and advocate – there will be a prize for top ideas!
You recently received the Michelle Harkness Mentorship Award for your incredible mentoring of youth with food allergy – congratulations! What drives your commitment to educate and support youth with food allergy?
I am incredibly honoured to have received the Michelle Harkness Mentorship Award from AllerGen. I am lucky to have an incredible team of people behind the Allergy Pals/Allies program that are just as passionate about youth mentorship. Together, we’ve grown it into something special that has direct social impact. I’m driven knowing that this program would have made a difference in my life if it were available way back when.
Food allergy can make kids feel different when they just want to fit in. When they connect with others who face the same challenges and situations, they feel supported and understood. I’ve dealt with so many tough situations in the past because of my food allergies, and I love being a part of a program that helps children find their voice, and their confidence to manage this medical condition in all settings.
Is there anything you would like to add?
As a parting thought, I’ll share that I once was a sleepy teenager who wanted nothing to do with his food allergies. However, over the years I’ve found that the more I connect with others, the more I learn and feel in charge of my food allergies. Whether newly diagnosed or not, I recommend that everyone affected by food allergy continues to learn and connect with others. New research pops up every day, guidelines change, and new helpful products/services launch. Joining a support group, participating in a food allergy webinar or attending a conference goes a long way in being mentored ourselves.
I look forward to meeting you at the 2020 Food Allergy Canada conference in May!
Thank you, Kyle, for your incredible hard work and dedication to educating youth with food allergy! #FoodAllergyChampion
Be sure to register your child for this empowering and educational morning led by Kyle! Check out the full agenda and register now to save your child’s spot.