I wanted to write and thank publicly all of those who contributed time, energy, and passion to the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference this past weekend. The gratitude I feel is intense and humbling. I hugged so many people so many times I am guessing it will come as a surprise that I am an introvert by nature but without going into detail about my life so far, to have friends is something that never stops feeling surreal.
I sat yesterday in a meeting in the catering department with Rich Niederman, Jenny Sprague, and Maureen Robinson. Rich and Maureen are part of the stellar South Point Hotel team that believe in our event. They are old Vegas in the best possible way, classy and professional but with a sense of humor. Rich spoke to us about how wonderful all our attendees were, how sitting with them was like sitting with a mom in a pick up line at school or talking to a fellow parent at a PTA meeting. No pretense, no games, just good people.
I feel so proud. Proud of all of you and this generation of the food allergy community. One that collaborates and builds people up. I told Maureen and Rich the story of Ritesh Patel’s allergy bracelet (also check out his videos from the event!). How the idea came at last year’s conference and he made it a reality. How the product would save lives. How this gem of a human being was connecting people at the event and even talking about collaborating with sites like Freedible and Online Allergies with his product. He wasn’t just creating something to sell to the food allergy community, he was lifting all boats with the rising tide of innovation.
Rich also mentioned that he used all of your blogs and the resources out there online to understand food allergies and serving those that deal with them. The words you write make a difference! Information is our best antidote to fear. Chef Jamie Poltrock and Chef Darren Walters made the wonderful recipes used this year and, combined with Chef Keith Norman’s food safety training, the whole staff at the South Point were great at accommodating special diets.
Thank you also to Chef Chris Johns, I think the whole cupcake decorating breakout session was surprised when he stopped in to do some frosting piping!
Thank you to Jenny for allowing me to be a part of your vision two years in a row. The universe may have made us food allergy moms, but I am so glad to call you my friend.
Special thanks to volunteers who included Barbra Konrad, Rebecca Sherrow, Imelda Patag, Jodi Bourquin, Sonja Braunlich, Kim Pebley and family, Laura Arango, Assly Sayyar, Ivette Reyes, Alyssa Morrisey, Vigil Beth Rapiz, Elyse Hahne, Minhja Nguyen, Alison Johnson and Selena Bluntzer. Each and every one of these individuals went above and beyond when they had many other things in their lives demanding their time and attention. Erin Collins came to my house the week before the event and loaned me so many of her dresses, I may have to find more events to go to just to take them each for a spin before I get them back to her.
Thank you to Sarah Chapman and Brynn Hadler – Sarah and her husband attended all the way from England and Brynn flew in from her home in Australia. Knowing this was a worthwhile event for you means a lot. Sarah remarked that hearing Dr. Li speak about her research in food allergy was “like Harry Potter” because it may as well be magic for the hope it gives. I’m with you, Sarah!
Getting to thank people like Joel Warady of Enjoy Life, Lynda Mitchell of KFA, and Dave Bloom of Snack Safely for their continued commitments to food allergy, to shake their hands and let them know what the work they do means is such a treat.
Meeting Elisa Camahort and Robyn O’Brien gave me “pinch me” moments where I might as well have been dreaming. Same with meeting fantastic attorney advocate Mary Vargas and seeing Laurel Francoeur for a second year. You ladies are making such an impact!
Jerome Bettis’ speech about how celebrity offers him the platform to help others rang so genuine and true. I helped people take pictures with Mr. Bettis with their cell phones (we have photos from our awesome photographer Issac Easley coming in two weeks!) and he smiled warmly to every single person he met, it was a treat to see.
I want to mention everyone here but I would literally be mentioning everyone but suffice to say, if there was ever a reason to stick around on this world besides my family, it would be all of you. I can’t wait to see what you achieve and the positive light you each continue to bring with you. (Annelies, I can’t wait for your book about cooking with tea!)
My fellow legal panelists, my sister Assly Sayyar and my dear friend William Devine were a treat to work with – thank you!
My children – you are such troopers, I have to apologize for being so busy this year with the opening of my firm in January and the build up to the conference all year. Mommy will try to put the phone and laptop away when we play together, I promise.
My husband – thank you for your help and especially for giving me that much needed push to go to dinner Sunday night after we finished packing up the cars with conference materials. I needed to remember what it was like to turn off conference mode after a long year and just be.
I had so many meaningful conversations with so many people (Tricia Gavankar, Sharon Wong, Cybele Pascal, Erica Dermer, Mary Fran Wiley, Henry Ehrlich, Drew Aveling, Jessica Martin, Colette Martin, the list goes on!) and hope the dialogue keeps going with all of you.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!