May Blog: Allergy Awareness Month – Red Sneakers for Oakley 

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May 2021: Allergy Awareness – Red Sneakers for Oakley 

May is Allergy Awareness Month!

“Up to 32 million Americans, including 1 in 13 children, have a food allergy, and nearly 40 percent of these children have already experienced a severe or life-threatening reaction.”



Allergies are common for many people. You may sneeze because of trees,your eyes may water because of cats, or get stomach aches from milk products. For some, however, their allergies dictate many aspects of their everyday lives. Food allergies can be life threatening in some cases, so it’s important that schools and camps have food safety protocols in place. 


The most common Food allergies include:

  • Egg
  • Fish
  • hellfish
  • Dairy
  • Meat
  • Tree Nuts
  • Peanuts
  • Soy
  • Wheat

Allergies to these food groups don’t always start with direct ingestion, either. Some individuals may have a severe reaction to any of these food products simply by smelling it or touching the allergens. Food is a daily part of life – and for those living with food allergies – a daily struggle. Allergy awareness has become much better in the past few years, as most restaurant menus recognize Gluten, Dairy, and Nut free items on their menus or can substitute easily, it is still too easy to make a big mistake with food allergies and cause someone accidental harm. For example, food institutions can claim something is “gluten-free”, but unless the food is free from sharing equipment while producing their products, it is subject to cross-contamination. 


What do we do at Wekeela?


Camp Wekeela prides ourselves on being extremely allergy conscious. As one of the camps that is consistently rated a Top 10 Allergy

 Awareness camp by our friends at Allergy-Food App Spokin, we consider ourselves completely nut-aware to ensure food safety for those with nut allergies, provide all special diets individually to campers and staff that need it. Only campers and staff with a medically cleared form may have a special diet and the special diet meal will always match the community meal for the day. For example, if the entire camp is having spaghetti and meatballs, the special diet option will match that meal. Our kitchen also has a dedicated section to prepare the special diets and be free from cross-contamination. We substitute Sun Butter for peanut butter. In addition, we serve our campers and staff with allergies separately. These precautions go a long way in food safety! Our health center team also briefs every staff member of a child’s age group on the child’s special diet needs and how to keep the campers well-fed and happy during the summer.


Oakley Debbs 

This summer, Camp Wekeela will be partnering with Red Sneakers for Oakley. This organization was established by Robert and Merrill Debbs after the death of their 11-year-old son Oakley due to a fatal allergic reaction to nuts. Oakley loved his red sneakers and the family decided to use them as a powerful symbol for increased education and awareness among communities of people with food allergies, but also people who don’t have them.

Oakley suffered from both asthma and an allergy to nuts, and the Debbs’ believe they were ill prepared in recognizing the signs of anaphylaxis, the acute multiorgan life-threatening reaction to allergens. 

Since its establishment, Red Sneakers for Oakley has gained national exposure through supporters by wearing red sneakers and has launched a multi-pronged approach to enable its mission and mobilize people to take action.

Sharing Oakley’s Story

Adam and Danielle Peles are students at the Pine Crest school in Boca Raton, Florida. Together they volunteer to spread awareness on this issue, sharing Oakley’s story and also sharing their own stories of their food allergies.


“My entire life, I have suffered from multiple, severe food allergies. When I was about 9 months old, I suffered an anaphylactic, life threatening allergic reaction to creamed spinach. After I recovered from the reaction, I was tested, and my parents found out that I was severely allergic to multiple foods including dairy, nuts, fish, eggs, seeds, soy, and gluten. Luckily, I outgrew my allergies to soy and gluten at a very young age and my allergy to eggs more recently. However, I have still had to deal with very severe food allergies my entire life. Around the time that I was beginning high school, I found out about Red Sneakers for Oakley. Oakley always wore Red Sneakers, and the goal of the organization is to promote food allergy awareness in his honor. In 9th grade, I decided to partner with Red Sneakers for Oakley and host a Red Sneakers Food Allergy Awareness day at Donna Klein Jewish Academy (where I attended lower school) and Pine Crest Boca (where I attended middle school). In 10th grade, I hosted a similar “virtual” event at both the Pine Crest Boca and Ft Lauderdale Lower and Middle Schools. I shared some important information about food allergies in a video PSA and asked the students to wear red clothes/sneakers.”

-Adam Peles


It’s important not to overlook the importance of allergy awareness, especially in youth. Thanks to young role models like Daneille and Adam, more and more people will be educated on the subject. As we always try, Camp Wekeela will use it’s platform and ability to help those by partnering with Adam, Danielle, and the Red Sneakers for Oakley community to spread allergy awareness and put in place best practices to keep our campers and community safe this summer and beyond. 


Thanks to The Peles family, we’ll be involved this summer in helping their cause with our LIT program, raising awareness for the organization and Oakley’s story!