Before leaving for Vegas, one of my coworkers asked why I was so excited to go to this bloggers conference. How do you describe the feeling of being surrounded by people who just "get you?" Without much introduction, you know that these people share the same struggles, fears, hope, and excitement. These people want to hear your story, details about how you manage small tasks on a day to day basis. These people don't feel sorry for you but understand you. These people share your feelings of anxiety and your relief/heartbreak/anguish for each allergist visit, each birthday party, each day at school. These people want to talk about what you make for your kids' school lunches. How you pack for vacation. Where you shop. The brands you love.
Being at FABlogCon was like being with old friends. These are people who follow each other online and read each others posts daily. We watch each others kids grow. We smile with small victories and are saddened by food allergy-related tragedies, all through a computer screen. This is a chance to actually touch, hug, and laugh with these dear friends of ours. To hear their voices and see their faces. There is an instant connection when you meet another food allergy family, and an unspoken bond is instantly formed. I feel this when I meet one person/family locally, but to be in a room full of these people was extraordinary! Beyond words.
|Beginning top left moving clockwise: Heather McGrath (Blue Bear Aware) and Selena Bluntzer (Amazing and Atopic); KeelyMcGuire; Emily Cunningham (Allergen Menu Mom); Selena Bluntzer|
In addition to the personal joy of sitting at a table with these great friends, we got to learn so much through informational booths as well as educational seminars. We got to hear the amazing Dr. Ruchi Gupta speak (and we got to see a fun little video) as well as learn about hope for the future from the one and only Dr. Xiu-Min Li. She is making amazing strides at finding a cure for food allergies, and the living proof was right in that room. We also had the opportunity to visit with owners/reps from our favorites companies giving us a chance to learn more about them and also allowing us to give feedback to them. It's pretty amazing to get to know the people behind the brands.
|Henry Ehrlich introducing Dr. Gupta and Dr. Li|
We also got to meet and hear from prominent advocates in the food allergy community which was quite inspiring. These are mostly just moms like you and me who had to fight to keep their child(ren) safe. As time went on, their voice got louder drawing in a larger audience, making their advocacy stronger. These are the people we need to thank for all the change that is happening in our community. Also present were big names like singer Kyle Dine (we love his food allergy songs) and spokesperson Jerome Bettis.
|Me and Kyle Dine; Me and Jerome Bettis|
Our local FARE walk was the same weekend I was in Vegas, but luckily the rest of my family was able to participate. As many of you know, not only do two of my kids have food allergies, but so do my nephew and niece, both from different parents. My husband and both of his sisters have children with food allergies. This food allergy bit is a family affair! The silver lining of that is that there is always safe food at family get togethers, and we all "get it." I really feel for those families who struggle with having family members who don't "get it," and they battle with keeping their child safe around family (the one place they should feel safe). Not everyone is as fortunate as we are, and that can be really difficult to deal with.
|SuperSafe AllerKids 2014 FARE Food Allergy Walk (4 of the 5 children pictured here have life-threatening food allergies)|
We didn't have much down time at FABlogCon, as this was an event-packed conference. But arriving a little early allowed me to take a scenic tour hosted by Homa Woodrum's husband, Adam, along with Heather McGrath (Blue Bear Aware), Brynn Hadler (Allergy Bytes), and Tiffany Glass Ferreria (Food Allergy Fun). We had the pleasure of seeing Las Vegas' Red Rock Canyon. What a beautiful view!
|Enjoying Las Vegas with wonderful friends|
We also got to spend a little time on the strip. I was joined by Justin (YoDish) and Emily (Allergen Menu Mom) Cunningham, Tiffany Glass Ferreira, and Selena Bluntzer (Amazing and Atopic) as we ventured to The Venetian. And the evening ended perfectly watching the fountains dance at the Bellagio with Selena Bluntzer and Homa Woodrum (Oh Mah Deehness). What a wonderful way to end a wonderful weekend!