N.C. FACES started as just a small play group eight years ago for families with food allergic children.
Today, the group, which stands for Food Allergic Children Excelling Safely, has grown to serve more than 250 families across the Triangle with allergy-friendly outings, playgroups, support and more.
And it was recently honored by the Virginia-based Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, the world’s largest nonprofit organization providing information about food allergy to schools, health professionals, drug companies, the food industry, and government officials, as well as the food-allergic community.
The group awarded Andria Youngberg, N.C. FACES cofounder, with its Mariel C. Furlong Award for Making a Difference. Youngberg, the mom of three in Cary, was a winner in the community service category for her "tireless work on behalf of families with food allergies," according to the group. She coordinates allergy-friendly outings, provides education to schools and maintains the group's website.
"It was very nice to get that recognition," Youngberg told me. "It brings a little bit of credibility to our group."
Youngberg was thrown into the world of food allergies when her middle son, now age 10, was diagnosed with them. With the help of clinical trials at Duke Medicine, he's outgrown some of the allergies. He continues to have a life-threatening allergy to peanuts and a severe allergy to milk.
"We started as a small playgroup," she said, "and we grew from there. We always seem to be finding new people. ... It's nice knowing you're not alone out there."
The group has quarterly meetings, along with special events such as nut-free Halloween and Easter celebrations. Over the weekend, members were able to attend a Durham Bull games in a peanut-free zone. Another peanut-free zone at the Durham Bulls stadium is scheduled for July 18.
On June 14, the group will hear from Julie Bradsher, CEO of the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, along with the group's vice president of education and outreach, Eleanor Garrow-Majka.
Many of the group's members participate in clinical trials at Duke Medicine to ferret out the cause of allergies and find treatments and cures. Dr. Wesley Burks, Duke's chief of pediatric allergy and immunology, is the group's medical advisor. N.C. FACES recently donated five DVD players so kids undergoing clinical trials would have something to keep them busy while they waited.
"It's been kind of neat to be able to do what we've been able to do," Youngberg told me.
To learn more about N.C. FACES and find out how you can get tickets for the peanut-free zone at the Durham Bulls stadium and hear from Bradsher and Garrlow-Majka, visit www.ncfaces.org.