Hockey star helps food-allergic child see first live game

Hockey star helps food-allergic child see first live game

There are a lot of uplifting stories in the blogosphere about individuals dealing with food allergies.  I read so many of them, and sometimes I like to write about one or two in this blog and share highlights. However, I don’t believe I’ve ever reprinted one verbatim… until now.

The website of the popular magazine Living Without ( wrote a piece that really struck me as something special.  Maybe it’s the hockey fan in me, though I suspect it’s just the parent part.  (Hockey players are notorious “givers” however – the best in all of sports in my opinion.)  In any case, for a quick, feel-good story, read on.

(This is an authorized, verbatim copy of the original article found at the following link:  Thank you to the folks at Living Without for allowing me to share it with you.)

The red, black and white bright lights flashed, the music thumped and the crowd bellowed with cheers. In the seconds before the opening faceoff, Joseph finally experienced the thrill of being at a Carolina Hurricanes hockey game. He held onto that excitement throughout the game, and when he returned home, he basked in the glow of his home team’s victory.

My 7-year-old son Joseph was able to safely attend his first NHL game, thanks to the generosity of Hurricanes all-star Eric Staal and his wife Tanya. They created Eric’s Entourage to provide a luxury suite during each home game for nonprofit organizations that serve children. In addition, another wonderful local family made sure the suite was free of allergens and that Joseph even had his own snack bag with food free of peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, milk, egg and soy.

The generosity we felt that night was touching and special on so many levels. The suite allowed Joseph to experience a pro hockey game without worrying about a fan eating peanuts next to him or someone spilling ice cream behind him. And my husband Gary, who is a huge sports fan, was able to share special time with his son cheering for our team, something most fathers take for granted. Gary and Joseph are best buddies, competing against each other on the basketball court, golf course and game room floor (also known as our hockey zone), plus any variety of Wii games. They also enjoy cheering on the Hurricanes from our couch.

But nothing compares to experiencing a game live. Joseph was so proud to wear his Staal-autographed shirt while he sat with his Dad and talked about each play, cheered for their favorite player (Staal) after each of his two goals that night, laughed at mascot Stormy’s antics and munched on safe chips.

I’m so thankful for the kindness and generosity of the people who made this sporting event possible for my food-allergic son. They provided an unforgettable experience for my family.

Have you ever felt this way?

Being a father who loves to take his boys (with food allergies) to hockey games, I really feel for Gary and what he had been missing.  Sporting events are a special bonding opportunity between fathers and sons.  (This isn’t to leave out the mothers and daughters either… especially mine who are often right there with us, though not making as much noise.)

So, as the article asks, have you ever felt this way?  Have you ever had a similarly special experience at a sporting event?  How about elsewhere?  Please share your special stories during this holiday season by clicking on Reply or Comments below.

Also, please remember to rate all your restaurant experiences this holiday season and always on our main AllergyEats site (  With all the dining out that occurs here at the end of December, it is a critical time for us to gather as many restaurant ratings from members, fans, and friends as possible.  You’ve all been so wonderful in dramatically building AllergyEats over these first 10 months… and it is making a difference in people’s lives already!  So if you would be so kind as to remember to rate your restaurant experiences over the next few weeks, that would go a long way to making AllergyEats even stronger for our food allergy and intolerance community!  (It could win you a free T-shirt too!  See the AllergyEats home page for details.)

Happy Holidays to you all… and safe eating!



    We have been fortunate enough to have a few amazing experiences–Disney where they tend to do everything right (including getting us a guest assistance pass as our son is severely contact allergic), to his own classmates being concerned about his well being. This past Friday we took the family into NYC to have a Christmas day. After visitng Santa at Macy’s we headed to Bistango (a restaurant I found on Allergy Eats!) for lunch to get us prepared for the rest of our day. I called ahead to make sure they were well informed of Connor’s allergies. When we arrived, they knew about his Milk, Egg, Peanut, Treenut and Sesame allergies. This was probably the fanciest restaurant Connor has ever been to where we didn’t have to bring our own food from home (look mom, glass water cups on the table!). The waiter brought out the bread so we could personally review the ingredients, and then did the same with the Pasta. Just watching my little man scarf down bread and olive oil and then devouring his pasta and chicken was a great thing. They were so thoughtful and took great care in taking care of Connor and making sure he had a good experience.

    We next headed off to Baby Cakes, a bakery down on Broome Street that we’ve been waiting to visit for quite some time. As we walked into the bakery, tears filled my eyes because lo and behold EVERYTHING behind the counter from scrumptious donuts to brownies to cookies and most especially the delectable cupcakes was SAFE (they also do GF though we have wheat). I let him go hog wild and pick out anything he wanted (we ended up coming home with a dozen cookies, a dozen brownie bites, & a 1/2 dozen cupcakes!). We must have stayed there for an hour and a half, catching up with an old friend and munching away on safe treats that we didn’t have to search for wipes to wipe ourselves down with afterwards, and it was great being in an environment where we didn’t have to worry about allergen cross contamination. We took pictures and gushed to the staff about how amazing it was to watch our son experience what most other kids experience. It’s the little things in life that make a difference, and being able to have an entire day where we didn’t have to be stressed out about food basically helped make my year. Thanks Allergy Eats as I wouldn’t have found the restaurant without you, and thanks to Baby Cakes for ALL that you do, every day helping out our kiddos one cupcake at a time.

    Katie Larrabee

    A friend of mine went to a Yankee game and had to leave because someone a few rows back was eating peanuts and he had a reaction. People don’t understand the dangers of food allergies and while parks are learning to offer foods that are non-allergenic, some allergens simply cannot be avoided due to the fact that others can eat them. I applaud the Staal family for being so generous and so sensitive to the needs of your son!


    Kathleen –

    This is such a nice story and I’m proud that AllergyEats was able to help make part of it possible. Makes all the hard work that much more worthwhile. I really appreciate you sharing it.


    P.S. Please don’t forget to add your own rating of Bistango! Let’s reward them if they deserve it!

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