A Chef, a Doctor, a Seven Year-old and a Country Singer Join Forces to Raise Awareness

When you have a food allergy, eating foods outside the "standard" American diet can be quite challenging. Especially if you’re allergic to one of the top eight allergens—wheat, soy, seafood, fish, milk, eggs, tree nuts and peanuts.

It’s hard to tell grandma that the birthday cake she baked can make you stop breathing because it has milk and eggs in it. Or your friends and classmates that you can’t have a PB&J sandwich because the wheat and peanuts makes your lips and tongue swell. Or your new business partner you can’t eat at his favorite Asian restaurant because your soy allergy causes you to wheeze. How do you RSVP for your company Clam Bake at the annual meeting when you could go into anaphylactic shock just by smelling the shellfish being steamed?


In recognition that food is an integral part of our lives—at home, school, work and celebrations—and should bring pleasure, not discomfort or death, to all individuals with or without known food allergies, the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN™) is proud to announce it’s 2012 Walk for Food Allergy Atlanta honorary chairs who, together create a team of informed, knowledgeable and empathetic spokespersons for those with food allergies:

  • Executive Sous Chef Ashley Mitchell of Affairs to Remember Caterers, the Honorary Event Chair, was selected for her outstanding commitment to make every attempt to provide Affairs to Remember guests with special dietary needs the same quality experience as every other guest.
  • Honorary Youth Chair, second grader Olivia Kirkman, diagnosed at age one with food allergies to 11 foods, has become a tremendous advocate for herself and others with food allergies. Last year she helped her school observe Food Allergy Awareness Week for the first time and PAL Hero Awards (Protect A Life™ From Food Allergies) for her classmates.
  • Dr. Kathleen Sheerin of the Atlanta Allergy & Asthma Clinicserves as the Honorary Medical Chair for the second consecutive year. She’s not only passionate about food allergy awareness and education for her patients – she is vigilant as a parent. Both she and her son have food allergies.
  • Luke Pilgrim, the Walk’s Honorary Celebrity Chair and FAAN’s Celebrity Ambassador Who Cares, has emerged from Cleveland, Ga as an artist to watch, and is a prime example of a public figure affected by food allergies. Not letting the various challenges related to this medical condition stop him from accomplishing his every dream; Pilgrim just wrote, produced and played every instrument in his new single, “Back Road Lullaby.”

An estimated 15 million Americans, including six million children (1 in 13), have a food allergy. Food allergies are a potentially life-threatening medical condition, and according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) food allergies result in more than 300,000 ambulatory-care visits and 150-200 deaths annually. Georgia has reportedly lost three young men to food allergic reactions in the last year.

To raise awareness, as well as funds, for crucial food allergy awareness, advocacy, education, and research, FAAN has embarked on its eighth Walk season. This year, more than 40 Walks in cities across the U.S. and one online are planned. The Walk in Atlanta, Ga is scheduled for Sunday, October 14, 2012 at Atlantic Station in west Midtown.

The prevalence of food allergies and associated anaphylaxis appears to be on the rise, although the reasons are not clearly understood. According to the CDC, from 1997-2007 the number of children younger than 18 years of age with food allergies increased by 18 percent.

Mitchell understands the needs are growing exponentially and welcomes the challenge. Chef Ashley said, “’Our #1 job is to ensure that all our guests are eating food that is safe; that’s what I consistently say on events to our staff. With regard to food allergies, awareness is the first step followed by education and implementation.”

Named one of Atlanta Magazine’s “Top Docs” by her peers six out of the last eight years, Dr. Sheerin says, “In light of the recent deaths in Atlanta, I think food allergy awareness is even more important. Being prepared is key. Always carry your EpiPen if you have one.”

The two-mile Walk starts at 9:00 a.m. with registration beginning at 8:00 a.m. Before and after the Walk, participants are invited to enjoy live music while visiting with local allergists, vendors and support groups that can answer questions about food allergy and delight in face painting, temporary tattoos, balloons, and an inflatable obstacle course.

A participant in the Atlanta Walk since she was three, Olivia wants everyone to know the Walk for Food Allergy Atlanta is fun for kids and grown-ups. Registration for FAAN’s Walk for Food Allergy Atlanta is now open at www.foodallergywalk.org. Individuals, families, community groups, and anyone else wishing to raise funds for FAAN are encouraged to register and participate in this family-friendly event.

“Understanding food allergies is really important. The more people know, the safer it keeps me and other (food-allergic) people, so please join us for the Walk for Food Allergy Atlanta,” says Olivia.