Red Sneakers for Oakley #LIVLIKEOAKS

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red-sneakers for Oakley, Peanut allergies, nut allergies, FARE, #livlikeoaks

Autumn’s Story

I am a food allergy mom.  Both of my daughters have life-threatening food allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, and pine nuts.  If they were to eat, even a minuscule amount of their allergen, their body would go into anaphylactic shock. Anaphylactic shock occurs when there is inadequate blood flow to critical organs of the body during a life-threatening allergic reaction.  Not everyone affected by anaphylaxis will experience the same thing, but common symptoms include hives, itching, flushing, and swelling of the lips, tongue and roof of the mouth.

The airway is often affected, resulting in tightness of the throat, chest tightness, and difficulty breathing. These life-threatening allergic reactions can also be accompanied by chest pain, low blood pressure, dizziness, and headaches.  If not treated immediately, a serious reaction can result in death. DEATH!  This is a very terrifying reality for a food allergy parent.  It means that something everyone else takes for granted, eating a daily meal, can result in my child’s demise. 


Now, I am not a gloom and doom type of gal, so I do not hover over this fact, however, it is always in the back of my mind.  My children would never know they are different or know of the battles going on behind closed doors on their behalf.  They live normal, great lives!  They participate in sports, go on vacations, visit hands-on museums, you name it–they do it!  We do travel with an arsenal of items everywhere we go. Our backpack includes; 2 sets of Epi-Pens life-saving Epinephrine), Benadryl (for mild, contact reactions), disinfecting wipes and our allergist’s office phone number, after hours number and our insurance card, at all times.  We know to wipe surfaces before we sit down at a table.  We wash hands consistently and always bring our own food.  We have even asked grandparents to keep their homes as a “safe” place where peanuts, tree nuts and pine nuts do not have a place at the table.  Family functions can be tricky because there are usually so many chefs in the kitchen.  We must always read labels and often will not enjoy homemade entities if the baker can not guarantee an allergen-free kitchen.  We have successfully been navigating this life for 11 years now with only a few hospitalizations under our belt.

Oakley Debbs

Recently you may have heard in the news the story about an 11-year-old Florida boy who lost his life due to an anaphylactic reaction occurring after an accidental ingestion of nuts.  Very traditional scene – a family gathering together.  Some from out-of-town. Over Thanksgiving weekend.  Cousins playing, adults cooking.  The scene turned deadly with Oakley Debbs grabbed a piece of cake off the table while running around with his cousins.  Within minutes, he knew there was something in the cake he shouldn’t have had.  He died 4 days later, leaving behind a devastated family, including his twin sister Olivia.

In the wake of this devastating loss, Oakley’s mother, Merrill Debbs has started the Red Sneakers for Oakly non-profit organization. Red Sneakers for Oakley is dedicated to raising awareness of the danger of asthma and allergies, specifically nut allergies, through the creation of educational programs, research and public policy initiatives. Inspired by the life of Oakley Debbs, who loved his red sneakers, the foundation wants to ensure that no other child loses their life from exposure to nuts.  To increase awareness and education, Red Sneakers will be producing a host of programs designed to explain the problem and present solutions.

Hear from Oakley’s Family  

The Today Show video clip:

Supporting and Donating

After reading countless articles regarding the Debbs family and their incredible loss and courage to help others, I wanted to help too.  Previously, the Debbs family was encouraging others to wear their red sneakers to show support for the food allergic community and specifically their son, Oakley.  People went out in droves and purchased red sneakers in his honor.  It got me thinking, that, if so many people were willing to purchase red sneakers, perhaps they would buy a t-shirt supporting the movement & monies raised could be directly donated to the Red Sneakers for Oakley non-profit.  With the help of, I created a #livlikeoaks t-shirt.  Immediately, my 11-year-old daughter, having severe food allergies herself, designed a t-shirt as well.  Both t-shirts are available below & can be purchased for $20.  All proceeds will go directly to Red Sneakers for Oakley.  I do not know the Debbs family personally, but I take their heartache personally. No family should have to lose a child, especially to food allergies. eakers-for-oakley

Being part of the food allergic community is like being a part of a club you never knew you’d hate to love.  Food should not cause such heartache, worry, and pain.  The food allergic community has always been so loving, accepting and a force to be reckoned with.  We know more about food production, manufacturing practices, and labeling laws than even the employees themselves.  But we do it all out of love and support.  Please consider purchasing a shirt to support a family that has lost a bright, shining star.

FARE (Food Allergy Research Education)

Additional donations can be made to FAREFARE is honored to be partnering with Red Sneakers for Oakley in memory of Oakley’s vibrant life. By making a donation to FARE today, you are helping us work for a future when no other life is lost due to food allergies through the support of increased education, advocacy, and awareness.

Guest Writer 
Autumn Chefan is a stay at home mom who homeschools her two daughters. She is an advocate for children who suffer from food allergies.


  • Liz

    That’s a sad story 🙁 but nice that they are trying to raise awareness/help.

  • It’s stories like this that make me realize how important it is for my family to be cautious of those with serious nut allergies. The other day we were heading to the library and I noticed that my son had wiped peanut butter on his shirt. I knew we were heading to a place with other children and I had him change his shirt. My heart goes out to families with food allergies. I know that they are constantly on the look out and dining at restaurants is very stressful. Let’s spread the word!

    • Autumn Chefan

      Suburbia Mom,
      Thank you so much for realizing your son’s shirt had peanut butter on it & changing it! You went one step further and put yourself in an allergy mom’s shoes–thank you! You probably kept quite a few kiddos safe that day from a contact reaction! Well done!

  • What a great cause and thoughtful tribute. Wishing the best to Autumn and her girls.

  • Brandi

    Great post! Raising awareness for a great cause. #redshoes

  • As a mom to just a food intolerance, I can’t imagine living with the fear of death vs a bad tummy ache. Such a sad story. But certainly one symbol that I hope can continue.

  • Nut allergies seem to have some of the most severe reactions. I honestly don’t know how airlines still get away with serving peanuts as snacks. Thank goodness for EPI pens and awareness campaigns like this though I’m sorry to hear the story that sparked it.

  • This is heartbreaking. I’m sure that would be hard to deal with. You never know if your kid will pick something without thinking and eat it. Hugs.

  • RonRon

    This is sad, really sad. Reminds me of a little girl here at my place who suffered the same fate.

  • Tatiana

    Can the t-shirt campaign deadline be extended?

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