In the earliest days of Kids With Food Allergies, a young television executive named Heidi Bayer turned to KFA to help figure out how to feed and care for her baby girl with multiple food allergies. She connected with KFA’s founder Lynda Mitchell and soon became a key contributor on the forums – using the name "Heidi B," as some long-time members may recall.
Heidi eventually joined the board of KFA, which merged with the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) in 2013, the nation's oldest and largest asthma and allergy nonprofit organization. A few weeks ago, Heidi was elected chairwoman of the board of AAFA. KFA recently sat down with Heidi to ask her a few questions about her history with KFA, her family and the future:
KFA: How did you first find KFA and what led you to get more involved as it grew?
Heidi: When our now college-bound daughter was six months old, she was diagnosed with multiple food allergies through a blood test at an allergist’s office. I was working full-time, nursing, and we were trying to introduce new foods to her. It was a frustrating and isolating time. I was trying to figure things out on my own, like wondering “what is gluten,” and navigating the world of scientifically named ingredients (FALCPA cleared this up!) The questions I had seemed never-ending, so I turned to the Internet.
After an extensive search, I found the online predecessor to KFA shortly after 1998 and Lynda and I began a dialogue. Our children both had severe milk allergies, though her son was a bit older.
When KFA became a non-profit organization in 2005, I had just moved to New York. A few years after that, Lynda came into the city and we met for lunch. She asked me if I wanted to be on the board - I was thrilled and excited to be asked to assist! I couldn't say no to Lynda.
KFA: What sets KFA apart from other food allergy organizations?
Heidi: I believe that KFA’s parent-to-parent support forums, its excellent clear and concise medical information about food allergies, and its respect for patient privacy sets it apart from other organizations. KFA educates and nurtures concerned parents and caregivers, providing a forum for support and information at a very pivotal time in their child’s life. I’ve seen many parents come to KFA confused, isolated and feeling alone. Very quickly, they are leading discussions, assisting others who are new and taking a very proactive role on the boards. I was one of them.
KFA: What excites you about becoming chair of the AAFA board?
Heidi: What excites me most is that now KFA has the benefit of being a part of a 60-year-old non-profit organization and that now we have the resources to do so much more. AAFA will be rolling out a new web site this year, and we have many other programs that we’re going to be launching. It was a thrill to meet some of my online friends at KFA's ten-year anniversary celebration on May 30!
KFA: Anything else you would like the KFA and AAFA community to know about you?
Heidi: Since my life-long asthma has been in remission, I run on Sunday mornings with my husband. We run from our apartment around Prospect Park in Brooklyn. It is a five-mile run and challenging - but we really find that it is a great way to reconnect - and stay in shape.
Heidi, an entrepreneur in the television, online and digital marketing space, also blogs at http://bklynallergymom.com/