DSCC Mom Explains Teal Pumpkin Project’s Value

October 28th, 2019

Axel Johnson sits with an overturned bucket of Halloween candy that he cannot eat

“Let’s include the kids who often feel as if they are forgotten.”

Andrea Stambaugh’s son, Axel, is 3 years old. He loves to keep up with other kids his age, and trick-or-treating on Halloween is no exception.

This fun tradition, however, leads to disappointment for the young participant in the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Division of Specialized Care for Children (DSCC) program.

Axel is unable to eat candy and other food items typically passed out at Halloween due to his medical needs. The lack of safe treats for Axel and children with food allergies or special needs is what makes the Teal Pumpkin Project so important, Andrea said.

The Teal Pumpkin Project aims to make Halloween safer and more inclusive for all youth by promoting non-food alternatives to the traditional Halloween candy. It encourages households to put a teal pumpkin on their doorstep to show that non-food treats are available, such as small toys or glow sticks.

Over the weekend, Andrea wrote a moving post on Axel’s Facebook page, “Axel’s Journey with CMV”, to explain what the Teal Pumpkin Project means to children like Axel.

We wanted to share her words to highlight the project’s impact on families in our program:

“Why is the #TealPumpkinProject so important?

Let me explain with the one photo below (shown above).

Every year our hometown has a day dedicated to trick or treating around the businesses.

We trick-or-treated today for four hours.

As Halloween tradition goes; once it was over, all the kids go home and beg their parents to sort through their candy bags so they can trade with their friends and eat candy until their stomach hurts.

Well, I shouldn’t say all kids, I should say that’s what MOST kids do.

In some houses when the child gets home from a fun day trick or treating, all they ended up with was a basket full of treats they can’t enjoy and disappointment.

This picture was taken when we got home today. As you can see, the majority of Axel’s teal bucket was full of candy he can not eat and only a few trinkets that he can enjoy.

The owners of the two businesses who participated in the Teal Pumpkin Project this year actually are followers of our blog.

For kids with allergies or g-tubes (gastrostomy tubes) or medical conditions that limit the things they can or cannot eat, this is what a typical Halloween night looks like.

My son so desperately wants to do the things the other kids are doing. So we take him trick-or-treating. As a parent, it breaks my heart knowing that at the end of the night there is nothing in his bucket really for him.

If you don’t know Axel, he can eat nothing by mouth and is completely dependent on his g-tube for nutrition.

Today, as people would place their Halloween bucket in front of him he would look down to see the candy and a disappointed look would come over him. In the beginning, he would pick a piece to satisfy the person with the dish, but toward the end it wasn’t even worth it. He knew none of the candy going into his bucket were really for hIm.

When I picked through his bucket and gave him the seven things he could enjoy, he was happy with that. He is easy to please. But, I just wish I had a whole bucket of things to give him.

I’m not writing this for sympathy.

I’m writing this as a mom. A mom whose only goal in life is to make sure her son is always included.

I’m writing as a plea to those who are reading.

I’m begging you to participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project this year and offer non-food items to those who need them.

Let’s include the kids who often feel as if they are forgotten.

If you need to know what the Teal Pumpkin Project is or would like to register your house on the map of those participating, you can find additional information here ——> https://www.foodallergy.org/education-awareness/teal-pumpkin-project.”