CONGERS, N.Y. – “Don’t just give out candy on Halloween, says Aaron Spero, who is campaigning for people to participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project. “Give out toys so everyone can have a fun time.”
Spero is a charismatic campaigner. That’s because his message is coming from his heart. The seven-year-old, who suffers from severe food allergies, wants to trick or treat safely. He’d be only too happy if folks could put a yo-yo or a ball or a glow stick in his bag this Saturday.
The second annual Teal Pumpkin Project is a nationwide initiative launched by Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), a nonprofit that helps people with food allergies. The campaign encourages everyone to put a teal-painted pumpkin, or a sign of the teal pumpkin, outside their home to signal that goodie bags can be filled with non-food treats.
The teal pumpkin sign can be downloaded off FARE’s site: www.foodallergy.org or from State Senator David Carlucci’s site www.senatorcarlucci.com
Between 1997 and 2011, the rate of children who have been diagnosed with food allergies has jumped by 50%, according to FARE. One in 13 children in the U.S. lives with a food allergy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“My own son has food allergies,” said State Senator David Carlucci, during a press conference held at Dr. Davies Farm in Congers. “Every child should have the opportunity to trick-or-treat, and to do it safely.”
Halloween, which is the start of the holidays, is an emotionally draining time for families who have children with food allergies.
“This is a great project,” said Dr. John Bosso, medical director of Allergy & Asthma Consultants of Rockland and Bergen. “Everyone should get on board.”
FARE is aiming to get 100,000 people to take the pledge to put out a teal pumpkin this year.
Jen Santucci-Spero, Aaron’s mom, said it’s easy to find teal-colored paint at Michaels.
“We’re not trying to change Halloween,” she said. “Just trying to make it inclusive.”
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