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Kids with food allergies can be carefree at Wesley Chapel fundraiser

Five-year-old Matthew Rivera must sit alone at a sterilized table in Tampa's Riverview Elementary School cafeteria.

Only kids whose parents have been briefed on what could happen if Matthew comes into contact with peanuts are allowed to eat nearby.

"If he touches them, he could die," said his father, Ronnie, 32, a Hillsborough County firefighter and paramedic.

His parents ask restaurant chefs to prepare Matthew's food separately. They maintain a vigilant watch to ensure his environment is peanut-free.

But on Saturday, they'll be able to let their guard down. At least a little bit.

Rivera, in addition to fighting fires and sanitizing any surface his son may touch, also runs Amazinflates, a moonwalk and inflatable rental company in Tampa.

Saturday, Amazinflates is hosting a fundraiser for the nonprofit Kids With Food Allergies at Sports + Field in Wesley Chapel.

"This event will take stress off parents," Rivera said. "Everywhere they go, they have to think about what (their kids) touch, what they eat."

Amazinflates' nine inflatable fun houses and obstacle courses will be sanitized so kids with food allergies can jump and slide without fear of encountering an allergy-triggering particle.

Only snow cones and cotton candy will be served — no milk, soy or nuts will be allowed.

The event will also serve as the first meeting for Protecting Allergic Children Together, a free support group Rivera is trying to start with other parents of food allergic children.

According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, food allergies affect about 6 percent of children younger than 4 and 4 percent of adults.

Peanuts and tree nuts cause the most fatal and near-fatal reactions.

Matthew keeps an EpiPen near him always. The spring-loaded auto injector of epinephrine, or adrenaline, prevents him from going into anaphylactic shock if he encounters an offender food.

Saturday will be a rallying event for food allergic families, but peanut-lovers need not stay away.

"People who are not allergic to anything are still welcome," Rivera said.

Reach Helen Anne Travis at or (813) 435-7312.

If you go

Kids With
Food Allergies fundraiser

Sports + Field, 2029 Arrowgrass Drive, Wesley Chapel

Saturday, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

$10 for kids, adults are free

>>Fast Facts

For information

To learn more, visit and

Kids with food allergies can be carefree at Wesley Chapel fundraiser 10/02/08 [Last modified: Sunday, October 5, 2008 10:44am]
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