Early arrivals for a recent Kids' Food Allergy Hangout in Lurie Children's Crown Sky Garden.
A group of about 20 kids between the ages of 8 and 13 sits in a semi-circle. They’re about evenly split between boys and girls. Some live in the city, others in the suburbs. What they all have in common is food allergy, a diagnosis that can make kids feel isolated.
The setting is the Kids' Food Allergy Hangout at Lurie Children's. Allergist Sarah Boudreau-Romano, MD, leads the hangouts, which are designed to provide allergy information that helps kids become self-advocates, as well as plenty of time to share their stories.
When asked if their food allergy makes them feel "different," virtually everyone raises a hand. Heads nod as common experiences are shared: feeling unsafe at school when a food they’re allergic to is present, well-meaning friends constantly bringing up their allergy, or being excluded from birthday parties.
"I hate talking about my food allergy," says Bella Flores-Turner, who is attending her second hangout. "But this is a safe place, where everyone has the same thing that I have, and that makes me feel a lot better about myself."