What a teal pumpkin on the porch means for trick-or-treaters with allergies

 
 
Updated 10/23/2018 7:05 PM
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  • Tori Padillo, a Schaumburg resident whose son, Brandon, has a peanut allergy, is one of many suburban residents participating in the Teal Pumpkin Project this Halloween. A teal pumpkin signals to trick-or-treaters that the house offers treats for kids with food allergies.

    Tori Padillo, a Schaumburg resident whose son, Brandon, has a peanut allergy, is one of many suburban residents participating in the Teal Pumpkin Project this Halloween. A teal pumpkin signals to trick-or-treaters that the house offers treats for kids with food allergies. Courtesy of Tori Padillo

Halloween is supposed to be a time for kids (and grown-ups) to wear costumes and load up on candy. Snickers, M&M's, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, 3 Musketeers -- the list goes on.

While it might be a sugar high for some, this time of year can be a downer for others. For Schaumburg resident Tori Padillo, whose 11-year-old son Brandon has a peanut allergy, and many other parents like her, it can be more of a trick than a treat to figure out what candies their children can eat.

"When he was first diagnosed, I thought it was a death sentence because I'd heard all of the horror stories," Padillo said. "You just can't control everything."

But this Halloween, when Brandon is trick-or-treating in his Drift costume, to play a character in the popular video game "Fortnite," it'll be a bit easier to spot houses where he can get treats without risk of an allergic reaction.

That's because across the country and in the suburbs, residents have joined in putting teal pumpkins on their porches as a signal to trick-or-treaters that the house is offering nonfood goodies that steer clear of common allergens.

The Teal Pumpkin Project was started by a food allergy awareness group in Tennessee, and the group Food Allergy Research and Education, or FARE, has helped take the movement nationwide.

"The number of children with food allergies as well as the number of anaphylactic reactions to food have risen dramatically over the last 20 years, and the prevalence of other diseases that cause adverse reactions to food continues to grow as well," Lisa Gable, the chief executive officer of FARE, said in a news release. "Participating in the Teal Pumpkin Project has a collective impact, bringing people together to provide a more inclusive trick-or-treating experience for all."

The website for FARE includes ideas for nonfood treats such as stickers, glow sticks and Mardi Gras beads, and even a map of homes that are participating, making it easier for parents to create their trick-or-treat itinerary.

The food allergy awareness cause is a big deal for Long Grove resident Laurie Margolis. Not only does she have food allergies, but her sons have allergies to products such as milk, eggs, peanuts and tree nuts.

"Going out on Halloween is not as exciting, obviously," Margolis said.

That's something she's trying to change. Last year, Margolis painted about 40 pumpkins teal and gave them to party guests. She's also writing a children's book series about food allergies in which one edition will focus on the Teal Pumpkin Project.

For Margolis, the project is about more than simply helping kids with food allergies get their share of candy and treats.

"The more that a household promotes compassion to kids with allergies that can now enjoy trick-or-treating, the more it helps spread kindness," she said.

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