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Millis/Medway - Local Town Pages

Some Medway playgrounds now have food allergy inclusion signs

Conrad Sampson, age 3, stands beside a new allergy awareness sign at Choate Park. Conrad has several life-threating food allergies. Credit: Patricia Sampson

Organizers still seek ways to promote allergen awareness across Medway
By Sofia Mercier
Student Writer
Medway residents Patricia Sampson, Erin Griswold and Caitlin Regan worked together to make Choate Park and Oakland Park a safe space, for children with allergies, by proposing food allergy inclusion signs on the playgrounds.
Sampson has spent much of her parenthood keeping her three-year-old son, Conrad, safe from his allergies. With seven life-threatening food allergies, it becomes increasingly difficult for Sampson to help her son live a ‘normal’ and carefree childhood.
She recalls a time when a caregiver had a large jar of peanut butter on an Oakland Park picnic table. The caregiver was making sandwiches and letting her children run around while doing so. At times like this, Sampson would speak up, but it usually led to a 50/50 response of: ‘I’m so sorry, I hadn’t even thought of it,’ or ‘We’re outside, just keep him away from us.’
“Trips to the playgrounds started to feel like more of a chore than a fun family activity,” Sampson says.
Children with severe allergies are prone to anaphylactic shock after touching their mouth, nose, or eyes while eating or playing in public spaces. Due to allergy-related anxieties, caregivers may choose to not bring their children to playgrounds or other public spaces. This isolates their child from the rest.
Beginning last spring, Sampson, Griswold, and Regan met two or three times a month to voice concerns and discuss the proposal they would later send to Medway Parks and Recreation. Sampson knew there was more that could be done than just hiding from social events and scaring her son by making him aware of his allergies.
After hearing Sampson’s heartbreaking story, Regan began to educate herself and her daughter about food allergen awareness. The three further researched ways to educate others about food allergies and found allergen awareness signs in communities such as New Castle, NY; Harlingen, TX; and Rockford, MN. The signs included voluntary steps park-goers can take to create a safer environment for the children which include eating at picnic areas and clean your hands with a water-based wipe after eating.
In July, Medway Parks and Recreation voted in favor of the proposal. In August, the signs were installed on Medway public playgrounds.
While their proposal was approved, Sampson, Griswold, and Regan are still looking for ways to promote allergen awareness across Medway. Their goal is to be of help to anyone who suffers from any food allergy or restriction. With the holidays coming up, they continue their efforts to support safety by hosting a tent at Medway Day and a trunk at the Medway Trunk or Treat.