Wow, I can\'t believe this happened in the U.S.

Posted on: Thu, 05/29/2003 - 6:09am
river's picture
Joined: 07/15/1999 - 09:00

I'm in shock about this article. It even goes so far has having the honesty to say that "Peanut allergies are NOT rare." For years they've been saying the opposite despite the obvious. I don't know much about baseball but I think I'll become a Whitecaps fan. Do you have to paint your face?


I'll skip the peanuts and Cracker Jack: Whitecaps shuck baseball tradition to let boy with allergy see a game

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

By Bob Becker

Grand Rapids Press Sports Editor

A parade of yellow school buses was to arrive at Fifth Third Ballpark this morning, ready to discharge streams of boisterous school kids.

For the third time this spring, the West Michigan Whitecaps had an 11 a.m. matinee, hoping to draw thousands of grade-school kids on year-end field trips.

For most youngsters, getting out of school is reward enough. But there is something magical about going to a ballgame -- the sights, tastes and smells have attracted generations of fans.

Many kids have been to a ballgame before. But this morning, 7-year-old David Andrusiak, a first-grader at Ada Elementary School, was making his first journey through the turnstiles.

For David, attending a game at Fifth Third Ballpark under normal circumstances isn't possible. He's allergic to peanuts, a staple at every ballpark in America.

"We couldn't take a chance," his mother, Rebecca, said of David never having attended a game. "There are many places we've avoided -- Chinese restaurants, for example -- but we thought it was time for him to go to a ballgame."

David is welcome at the ballpark today. Peanuts are not.

Thanks to Andrusiak and the Whitecaps organization, the game against Quad Cities has been declared peanut-free.

"David was so excited, he woke up at 6 this morning to pick out what he was going to wear,'' his mother said.

David said: "I like baseball. I think this will be fun,'' David said.

Asked if he would one day like to play at a park like Fifth Third, he said: "I think so, because I can hit pretty good.''

Andrusiak approached Tim Restall, food-services manager at the ballpark, and told him of David's allergy.

"When his mom called us, we talked about it and decided it was more important to let him enjoy a baseball game than for us to sell peanuts," Restall said.

"Peanuts are a very important, very traditional part of baseball. But you know what? So are little boys."

David's allergy is not rare -- in fact, it is the most common among all food allergies. What isn't so well known is the effects of even the smallest amounts of peanuts on an allergy sufferer.

Peanut proteins can act as powerful allergens, even 1/44,000 of a peanut kernel can be life-threatening, according to The Allergy and Asthma Network/Mothers of Asthmatics.

So when the Whitecaps say "no peanuts," they mean no peanuts. The cart that roasts peanuts was cleaned and removed from the premises. The bags of peanuts in the concession stands have been removed and couldn't be sold. Caramel apples were taken off the concession stand menu because they are dipped in nuts. One item that will be available, however, is Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

"We have a contract with them and with Kit Kat," Dewayne Hankins of the Whitecaps public relations staff. "The Reese's would be the only thing with peanuts, and we'll monitor where David is sitting so we can make sure there are no problems (with fans in proximity)."

The Caps publicized "No Peanut" day, asking fans who attended the game to not bring peanuts in with them.

"We couldn't guarantee that fans wouldn't sneak some in," Restall said. "But we are going to do what we can."

That included giving Fifth Third Ballpark a special cleaning after Tuesday night's game.

"I don't know if we can get every shell out of every drain, but we are going to make the effort," Restall said. "We don't ever cook in peanut oil, because we know the risks that can offer our fans.

"I think it's a good thing to let this little boy enjoy what all the other kids can enjoy. And if people are educated to how serious an allergy this can be, so much the better."

Andrusiak knows all too well the seriousness of the allergy.

Some very sensitive children will develop hives or wheezing just by touching a utensil or countertop that has been wiped clean of any physical evidence of peanut butter.

Reactions can range from a drop in blood pressure, itching, or swelling of the lips, tongue or mouth. But many can move on to life-threatening shortness of breath.

Peanut allergies are considered the most common cause of death by food anaphylaxis in the United States, contributing to more than 100 deaths per year.

"I hate the word allergy, because it doesn't do justice to what can happen if David gets near a peanut, or any tree nut for that matter," Andrusiak said.

Although he had developed rashes on earlier occasions, David's first major episode came when he was 2 1/2.

"It was in August, and we were at the Ada Fair," she continued. "David was making a bird feeder, with pine cones and peanut butter. We knew he'd had a slight reaction before, but since he wasn't eating the peanut butter, we thought it would be OK.

"Then he licked his hand. Within five seconds he was covered with hives, from head to toe. There was a ring around his neck and he couldn't stop coughing.

"Luckily my Mom was with us and she rushed over to the drugstore to get some Benadryl, which got him back under control."

Now, David doesn't go without a epinephrine kit, so a reaction can be quickly detected and treated. Since he cannot yet inject himself with the adrenaline, he carries a kit at school so the staff there can come to his aid.

"I went and talked to his class at the beginning of the year," Andrusiak said. "I brought a book with me, and showed them the medicine, and explained what it was for.

"The school has been very protective, they even have a peanut-free table in the lunchroom for him. Just touching a peanut could be a problem for him."

David is not the first allergic student first-grade teacher Emily Bocian has had.

"Each year I'm a little nervous," she said. "What if somebody gets too close to a peanut-butter sandwich in a lunchbox? What if the smell triggers a reaction?

"We have lists that went out to parents, with everything the kids can't bring in for treats. So far the parents have been wonderful."

And if David reacts?

"I can give him his shot," she said. "I took the training before school started. Funny, I don't remember anybody saying anything about this when I was taking education courses in college."

The Whitecaps did not single David out this morning.

"We didn't want to point him out as the 'Allergy Kid'," managing partner Lew Chamberlain said. "We just wanted to be able to allow him to be a regular fan.

"It just seemed like going without peanuts one day was outweighed by the benefits it would give the little guy. We can survive it. Every kid should be able to go to a ballgame."

Posted on: Thu, 05/29/2003 - 6:37am
Jana R's picture
Joined: 02/09/1999 - 09:00

Thanks for posting this - I'm collecting links to all the ballparks who have done anything for food allergy accomodation so I'll definitely add this to my list!
This is what's on the the Whitecaps website:
Date: May 19, 2003
Contact: Jamie Farber
Voice: (616) 784-4131 ext. 154
Whitecaps Go Peanut-Free; Boy With Peanut Allergy To Attend First Baseball Game
COMSTOCK PARK, MI - A West Michigan second grader will be taking in his first baseball game next week thanks to the Whitecaps Concessions Department. A life-threatening allergy to peanuts has always kept seven-year-old David Andrusiak away from the ballpark, but he's always dreamed of the day he could take in a professional baseball game. This Wednesday, that dream will come true. The Whitecaps game on May 28th has been declared peanut-free; the concession stands will not sell peanuts or other items that include peanuts.
For David's mother, the game on Wednesday will be a momentous occasion. "This is the chance of a lifetime for my little boy who plays YMCA baseball, but cannot go to a professional game because of the strong association of baseball with peanuts," Rebecca Andrusiak said. "The Whitecaps have arranged something that means so much to us: a safe day at the ballpark."
For Whitecaps Director of Food and Beverage Tim Restall, the choice to pull the peanuts was an easy one. "Here's a youngster that has never been able to see a baseball game because of something that's beyond his control. If we can do something as simple as not sell peanuts for a day and make Fifth Third Ballpark safe for David, there's no reason not to," Restall said. "While we are making every effort to keep the Ballpark peanut-free on May 28th, we have talked to Mrs. Andrusiak about our limitations. We will not sell or cook peanuts that day, but the Whitecaps can't guarantee that there won't be peanut residue in the park or that other fans won't sneak peanuts into the Ballpark."
While David was the impetus for the peanut free game, he's not the only child that will benefit. Two other children in his class also have an allergy to peanuts, and they're likely not alone. According to a recent study by the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, more than three million Americans suffer from a peanut allergy. For those people, being around a peanut or even a peanut shell can be life threatening. "A great percentage of our time is spent avoiding peanuts and places that would put David's health in jeopardy," Andrusiak said. "There are some things that we cannot do because of the allergic reactions that can result from him coming into contact with peanuts; seeing a Whitecaps game was one of those things."
During the May 28th School Days Game, peanuts will not be available at any concession area, including the suite level. Restall and his staff will also pull the Crash Caramel Apple from the menu because the item has a peanut coating. Gates open at 9:30 a.m. for the special matinee 11:00 a.m. game. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling the Whitecaps Ticket Office at (616) 784-4131.

Posted on: Thu, 05/29/2003 - 6:58am
California Mom's picture
Joined: 07/14/2000 - 09:00

River, thank you so much! I think this is an excellent article. I think I will print it out and if it seems like the right thing to do - I may give it to the mom of the boy who was teasing my daughter with peanut butter. This article has a lot of good information about the seriousness of pa and contact with peanuts. The baseball issue may draw the boy in.
Thanks! Miriam

Posted on: Thu, 05/29/2003 - 8:29am
Love my C's picture
Joined: 04/03/2002 - 09:00

Oh my goodness! I almost cried reading that article. How great of them! I had to send them an e-mail letting them know what a considerate decision that was! [img][/img]

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