By Karen Billing
Carmel Valley 7-year-old Charlotte Bailey has been named the honorary youth chair for the FARE Walk for Food Allergy on Sunday, June 29, at NTC Park at Liberty Station. Charlotte was diagnosed with a severe allergy to peanuts, pecans and coconut as a 2-year-old and has since then become her own allergy advocate.
“It’s hard to believe that foods you eat every day can hurt others but it’s true,” said Charlotte. “My job is to spread awareness about food allergies and to teach kids how to be a pal to friends with food allergies.”
The Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) is the nation’s leading organization working on behalf of the 15 million Americans with food allergies. Its mission is to find a cure and to keep people with food allergies safe and included.
This will be Charlotte’s fourth year walking with FARE and she has consistently been a top fundraiser for the walk. This year she has already raised $6,650 and in total has raised close to $25,000 for the cause.
Charlotte’s team of about 25 people will walk in pink t-shirts, her favorite color, with a big letter “C” on the front like Superman’s shield.
Charlotte, who is also a Brownie in Girl Scouts and loves to dance, has learned how to deal with the challenges of her food allergies.
“If there’s no label, I can’t have it. I always check the label or ask,” Charlotte said. “Sometimes mom and dad, if I don’t make a big deal about (being allergic to an item), [will give me] something special when I get home.”
Mom Michelle said when she first found out about Charlotte’s allergies it was very overwhelming, but she is grateful to have found FARE for the support it offers families, as well as the organization’s work with school, restaurant and airline policies, food labeling, promoting awareness and support in the effort to find a possible cure.
Michelle said that Charlotte is very good about always checking food ingredients and that she is lucky to be at such an accepting, accommodating school like Solana Highlands. One of Charlotte’s classmates was even so concerned about keeping his friend safe that he kept bringing his peanut butter and jelly sandwiches home from school — Michelle was able to connect with the parents to ensure he could still keep her safe and not go hungry at lunch.
Charlotte’s advice to fellow kids with food allergies: “Just relax. Speak for yourself. It’s OK to ask questions if you’re not sure,” she said.
As part of her responsibility as honorary youth chair, Charlotte wrote a presentation that she gave to second grade classes at Solana Highlands.
“Did you know that one in 13 kids has a food allergy?” read Charlotte’s speech. “The most common food allergies are milk, egg, peanuts, treenuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish. There are 5.9 million kids in the U.S. living with a food allergy.”
When Charlotte mentioned being a “pal” to friends with food allergies, she was referencing Protect A Life (PAL), a national education campaign.
The five ways to be a PAL include:
• Know that food allergies are very serious
• Don’t share food with friends who have food allergies
• Wash hands after eating
• Help all of your friends and classmates have fun together. “There are many ways to have fun together without food,” Charlotte said. “You can make crafts, ride bikes or play games.”
• If a friend with food allergies gets sick, get help right away.
Charlotte also adds: “Never tease, bully or make fun of someone with food allergies.”
Registration for the FARE Walk for Food Allergy is free and participants are encouraged to fundraise. To sign up or for more information, visit foodallergywalk.org. To donate to Charlotte’s team, visit foodallergywalk.org/sandiego/goteamcharlottebailey.