Two years ago when Becky Basalone and her two young sons first painted a pumpkin teal, she had no idea where that little pumpkin would lead. Becky had recently started FACET (Food Allergy Community of East Tennessee), an AAFA-affiliated support group. The pumpkin was part of her family’s decorations for a local allergist’s “trunk or treat” event. She also brought a scarecrow, a bucket of non-food treats and contact cards for FACET.
The event was a success, and Becky was excited to meet many people who were interested in joining the support group.
When they got back home Becky’s oldest son, who was then five years old, put the teal pumpkin on the porch with the other decorations. Then he put the bowl with the rest of the non-food items by the door next to the bowl of candy. These were mostly gag gift-type items like slime and silly eye glasses. Becky thought that having these available for kids who couldn’t have the candy was a great idea.
“Tricks” or “Treats”?
On Halloween night the teal pumpkin turned out to be a great conversation starter for food allergy awareness. When people came to the door Becky’s son held up the two bowls. “Do you want ‘tricks’ (the non-food items) or ‘treats’ (candy)?” he asked. And the “tricks” turned out to be a bigger hit than the candy!
The Teal Pumpkin Project was Born
By the end of the evening, Becky realized that Teal Pumpkins could be a fun thing for others in the support group to do, too.
“This became a project that the FACET leadership team worked on together,” Becky explains. “Last year we launched the Teal Pumpkin Project to our support group network. We printed up posters and fliers. These asked people to paint a pumpkin teal to show that they have non-food treats available besides candy.
“We had 50 local families in Knoxville, and the idea was spreading across east Tennessee county by county. We did a social media campaign and released the fliers through our Facebook site. FACET was not yet on twitter. But the leader of a support group in Georgia put our Teal Pumpkin Project poster out on twitter, and in one week it had 10,000 hits!”
The Teal Pumpkin Project went Viral
This year the Teal Pumpkin Project was launched nationally with media outreach by FARE, and the response has been huge. Millions of people have seen media stories, including television reports, and social media posts about the project.
“Entire neighborhood associations are participating,” Becky reports. “They are creating community groups on Facebook. And they’re making maps of neighborhoods where non-food treats will be available. The story has even gone to Australia and Israel – places where Halloween is not celebrated!”
Raising Awareness about Food Allergies
The Teal Pumpkin Project is now raising awareness about food allergies across the US and around the world. What started as one little painted pumpkin has become a new tradition for many.
“I can see now that I have even bigger plans for this,” Becky says. “Knowing how it’s taken off and can benefit so many is exciting. When we first started the Teal Pumpkin Project we wanted to find a way for all kids to be able to enjoy Halloween activities, regardless of disability or diet or physical limitations. Now I’d like to see people take the Teal Pumpkin Project poster to local businesses, schools, preschools, and more. Let’s spread awareness even further!”
How You Can Join the Teal Pumpkin Project
If you would like to take part in the Teal Pumpkin Project, all you need to do is:
- Paint a pumpkin teal and place it on your porch. This lets other families know that you have non-food treats available at your home.
- View a list of recommended non-food prizes and treats from Kids With Food Allergies (this list can be used for Halloween, school and other celebrations).
- Print out the poster that’s available at https://blogdotfoodallergydoto...eal-pumpkin-sign.pdf and place it on your front door.
- Keep your bowl of non-food treats separate from any candy, to ensure that the non-food items stay safe.
“Our goal is not to exclude candy from the Halloween tradition,” Becky adds. “Instead, we want to encourage people to add a new tradition, and also provide non-food items as a safe option.”