A week before he started eighth grade, Jack Callahan lost a very good friend, Annie LeGere.
Annie was staying at a friend’s house when she went into anaphylactic shock from an undiagnosed food allergy. While the police and an ambulance were called, she didn’t receive any meaningful treatment at the scene. She went into cardiac arrest at the hospital. Annie never regained consciousness. She died nine days later.
Annie’s tragic death spurred family, friends and the Elmhurst, Illinois, community to ask a lot of “What if . . .” questions. Since then major strides have been made. Legislative efforts have passed “Annie’s Law,” which equips police officers with epinephrine auto-injectors. And community awareness programs have worked to educate adults and children about food allergies.
Callahan has been a part of that movement since the beginning. He has participated in community awareness campaigns during the summers. For his senior service project, he is bringing that awareness campaign to Culver Academies.
Wednesday night, Callahan and a group of his friends placed approximately 100 teal pumpkins in Lay Dining Hall filled with alternative Halloween treats for children. Callahan selected Halloween because of all the candy that is handed out and the potential cross contamination some treats may have with others that contain nuts.
The Teal Pumpkin Project involves handing out small, inexpensive items such as rubber ducks, pencils, colored pencils, and erasers. Callahan said students will be able to take one of the items from the pumpkins. There will also be information sheets explaining the program.
“The event is designed to spread awareness about food allergies,” Callahan said. “Halloween is a time when a lot of allergic reactions occur because of all the candy being handed out.”
By handing out non-food items, he explained, it allows all children to enjoy trick-or-treating. The teal is in honor Annie since it was her favorite color.
For more information, go to the Annie LeGere Foundation.