If you’ve never been to a FARECon Teen Summit, here’s the run down- about 700 people from all over the country come to a hotel including nutritionists, scientists, parents, and 275 teens with food allergies. It’s a wonderful conference with sessions to appeal to all of the audiences featuring sessions about clinical trials, research, advocacy, how to travel with allergies, and how to manage all kinds of other life things. There is a key note speaker on Friday, followed by some ice breakers for the teens (which I helped run!) and parents. The next day started bright and early with various sessions from 8am-5pm and then after a dinner break, there is a social for the teens. The social is one of the highlights of the conference because it’s just like any other DJ dance, except there’s no food and all the focus is on everyone having fun dancing and talking and using the photo booth. Then on Sunday, the sessions went from 8:30 until check out at 12:30, concluding with the announcement of this year’s FARE Vision Award winners and Young Innovator award winners. This year I learned a lot about why the food industry and legislation are so flawed when it comes to dealing with allergens and what I can do to help push forward some reforms that could save people’s lives. Along the way, there are tables outside the conference halls with allergen-free food samples to try or with companies that will help simplify your life with allergies (and who doesn’t like freebies?).This year was a particularly special conference for me because I had an opportunity to share my story. My first session was a group presentation along with Allison and Anna. We talked about our experiences with managing food allergies in college to a packed house of about 200 people (they had to turn people away at the door!). We had such a good energy together and the parents and teens who attended our session came up to us for the rest of the weekend asking for advice and complimenting us on our presentation! On Sunday, I was able to be a part of an “ask the teens” panel for parents to ask us our opinions on whatever they wanted. This was super informal (in fact, i didn’t even meet my fellow panel members until the day of) and really fun. It’s really interesting to get the parents perspectives on why they do certain things and it’s always good to help reassure helicopter parents that they can loosen the reigns on their kid. The most amazing feeling that came from giving these talks however, was the validation you got from the crowds from their applause and their recognition of you long after you spoke.
Overall, I had such an amazing weekend at the FARE Conference and would 10/10 recommend attending one if you want to find a community of people who experience the same difficulties in life that you do. It’s always so comforting to know that you aren’t the only one out there. I want to give a special shout out to my friend Alexa for being such a great friend at the conference this year. I met her at the 2014 Teen Summit and we have nearly identical allergies and it was so great to see her again after three years! She gave a presentation about studying and working in the food industry and if you’d like to go check out her blog if you want to follow along in her adventures!