Evan is my 8-year old Nephew, and the Official Spokesbaby of the CDP. You may remember the very first photograph ever taken of him HERE, or when I held him in my arms and had an existential breakdown HERE, or how about when he guest-blogged his very first vacation RIGHT HERE?
Anyway, Evan is currently a normal kid attempting to live a normal childhood. He’s working his way through Elementary School, making friends and absorbing knowledge at a rapid clip. He’s quick-witted, passionate about nearly everything and always down for a game of MarioKart, which I have absolutely no problem accommodating whenever I come to visit. He’s currently obsessed with Star Wars, as you can see in the look of unbridled joy on his face in the above photograph. I think he’s even got a girlfriend. Bottom line, he’s an awesome kid, and he’s going to make an awesome adult.
In certain regards, Evan is a lot like I was as a kid. He’s a little small for his age, so he’s using his smarts and humor to get him through tough situations. He’s a little nerdy, creates epic stories on the fly, is plenty social but is just as content with a book or video game. Like I said, he’s just doing his best to make it through that rough patch of adolescence that probably won’t smooth out for another decade at best. We’ve all been there.
However, where Evan is NOT like I was as a kid (and probably not like you were, either), is that he suffers from a genuinely life-threatening food allergy.
In any other category, he’s just a regular dude, but when it comes to his immune system, he might as well be Paul Pfeiffer from The Wonder Years. It’s woefully unfair. Growing up is hard enough when you’re perfectly healthy; I cannot imagine what it must be like to also have to worry about dying by touching an unsanitized stair railing. Or going to a baseball game. Or just hanging out at a friend’s house.
Evan currently has major peanut allergies, but is also severely allergic to tree nuts, eggs, garlic, onions and soybeans. So, basically everything. Imagine your diet without those foods. Now imagine not even being able to share a room with those foods without going into shock. Eggs? Are you kidding me?
Immune issues run in my family. My mother has horrible allergies (she’s the only person I know who’s allergic to their own hair). My sister has immune issues (mosquito bites can swell to the size of a golf ball). I fortunately skipped the line (no allergies yet), but Evan did not. He’s had more emergency trips to the hospital than I care to count. More IVs, blood tests and needles than any kid should have to endure. Anything peanut-related is banned from his household at any cost. I accidentally opened a Reese’s Peanut Butter Egg on Easter, and it was slapped out of my hands. Everyone was really mad at me. This is serious business.
Look, I’ll be honest with you. I have no idea why there has been such an influx of crazy nut/food allergies among kids over the last 15 years, but I’m almost positive that it’s our fault somehow. Maybe it’s our diets, maybe the way we shelter and sanitize our children from allowing their Immune System to do their intended job. I don’t know, but I know I love my nephew and want him to live as normal of a life as possible. Growing up is hard enough; the poor guy doesn’t need to live in a bubble.
Evan’s Elementary School has been as accommodating for him as possible, as most schools are in this new age of major allergies. There are peanut-free lunch tables and cafeteria sections. This is all fine and good, but it’s never a foolproof way to make sure these kids properly avoid any possible areas where peanut dust and residue may lurk (which is basically everywhere nowadays). Look at your fast food wrappers and Dairy Queen cups; peanuts are everywhere, and when they suddenly become a thing that could kill you, the world becomes a much smaller, foreboding place. Throw onions, eggs and soybeans into the mix, and it becomes downright unbearable. He’s been having more issues at school, as his allergies continue to become more pronounced.
Evan has reached a severity with his allergies that my sister is now faced with a rough decision: She made need to pull Evan from school in order to keep him safe while his allergies are being monitored, treated and (hopefully) cured. This is a worst-case scenario, but it’s becoming a sad reality. Evan doesn’t want to be home-schooled. My sister doesn’t want to take him from his friends. And personally, we all feel that being pulled from school would essentially be a death sentence for his social upbringing. It’s a pivotal experience of childhood that could potentially be robbed from him as a result of his allergies. Evan’s options are becoming extremely limited.
But there is a solution.
Scarlet is a service dog from Noelle’s Dogs Four Hope, a wonderful business that specializes in training and placing service animals that assist people with things like seizures, mobility assistance and…food allergies! Similar to Seeing Eye dogs, certain animals can be trained to sniff out food allergens (like peanuts, onions and soybeans) so they may alert their owner to potential dangers and steer clear. After an application/waiting list process, Scarlet was hand-picked for Evan and is currently being trained to hone in on Evan’s specific allergies as we speak.
As you can imagine, this is tremendous news for Evan and his family.
Scarlet isn’t a luxury item by any means. Scarlet is a loving, life-saving tool that will be used to keep Evan safe. Scarlet is akin to an insulin pump, pacemaker or Epipen, although the companionship certainly wouldn’t hurt, either. Evan loves animals, and fortunately they’re one of the few things he’s not allergic to (I hope). With Scarlet, Evan could continue to go to school without fear. He would be able to travel to public zoos, tourist attractions, baseball games, vacation sites and anywhere else a typical kid would want to hang out. Scarlet could keep Evan safe, where humans, unfortunately, cannot.
Of course, I’m writing this essay for a reason: These dogs are pricey.
Noelle’s is a fantastic organization, but training these animals is a long, time-consuming process handled by professionals. They’re put through a rigorous boot camp to ensure beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are doing their job immaculately. This is literally a life-and-death task, so it’s handled with the appropriate amount of seriousness.
It will cost $5,000 for Evan to own Scarlet, and thanks to a mountain of medical bills (along with the fact that most people I know don’t just have $5k lying around), this is a cost that is proving difficult for Evan and his mother to scrounge up. Because of this, they have started a GoFundMe page where you can donate anything you’d like to the cause. Check it out, read Evan’s story and learn more about what you could to do change my nephew’s life for the better. And hey, just sharing it on Facebook and Twitter is completely free and would also mean a lot. You know me, and you know this isn’t something I do regularly. I really believe it will help.
Now let’s have some fun with this.
One of the things that I usually see on GoFundMe or Kickstarter projects are rewards or incentives to motivate people into donating. Evan doesn’t have any, but that won’t stop me from making a few of my own, so check this shit out:
IF YOU DONATE $25 (Thanks!) – You will be publicly thanked, and your name will be mentioned right here on the CDP!
IF YOU DONATE $50 (Book!) – You will receive a signed copy of my hilarious book, Aerating The Mashed Potatoes (shipping included)! You will also get the public shout-out above.
IF YOU DONATE $75 (Haiku!) – You receive the book and shout-out above, but I’ll also throw in a personalized haiku and any other random CDP merch I have in the archives! Expect stickers, patches, buttons, etc., some of it out-of-print.
IF YOU DONATE $100 (Mixtape!) – You receive the book, shout-out, haiku and merch above, but I’ll also throw in a personalized mixtape! I’ll ask you a few questions and masterfully craft a perfect mixtape to match your generous and sexy personality, and mail it right to your house.
IF YOU DONATE $250 (Drawing!) – You receive the book, shout-out, haiku, merch and personalized mixtape above, but I’ll also throw in a personalized drawing/letter by Evan himself as a way to say thank you! He sincerely appreciates it, and his artwork is awesome. It’ll be worth money after he gets famous.
IF YOU DONATE $500 (Video!) – You receive the book, shout-out, haiku, merch, personalized drawing/letter and mixtape above, but I’ll also throw in a videotaped thank you message from Evan and I! It will be personalized and e-mailed directly to you; we’ll do something rad, promise.
IF YOU DONATE $1000 (Mini Golf!) – You receive the book, shout-out, haiku, merch, personalized drawing/letter, mixtape and videotaped message above, but I’ll also throw in a day of mini golf with me! That’s right, a day of mini golf, on me, in either Madison or Wisconsin Dells (your choice!). We’ll work out the details.
(Fine Print: In order for rewards to be, erm, rewarded, you’ll need to contact me to let me know of your donation, as well as provide proof, such as a link to the donate page with your name on it. While the donation page will be up indefinitely, these rewards expire on 6/30/14. Rewards will be delivered by 7/31/14.)
Of course, you can just donate without having to deal with this reward stuff; I just wanted to sweeten the pot any way I could. This is my homie we’re talking about here, and your donation will help him live a normal life. Simple as that, kids.
If you have any questions or anything you think you can throw toward the cause, please click the link and check it out. Thanks so much, and enjoy the rest of your week.