Sunday, June 26, 2011

Food-allergic kids rock in Cary

"ROCK!" Joseph shouted the lyric in his favorite Kyle Dine tune, shook his music maker and rocked back and forth to the beat with a big smile on his face, thoroughly entranced by Dine's interactive performance of "Food Allergies Rock." The title song of Dine's newest album about food allergies capped off yesterday's concert on a boisterous note for my son and the other food-allergic kids who attended the event hosted by our local food allergy support group NC FACES (Food Allergic Children Excelling Safely).

We were thrilled that Dine, who hails from Canada, brought his concert to Cary, North Carolina. The world's first food allergy musician has been entertaining, educating and encouraging our family and countless others since 2007 when he released his first CD, "You Must Be Nuts!" His upbeat tunes are fun for singing along and dancing. But his lyrics are what really make his music special. The songs educate about food allergies, while providing a sense of hope and empathy for kids like my son. Joseph loves to listen to the fun songs that remind him that he is not alone in being scared or feeling isolated. After all, Kyle has multiple food allergies, too. Kyle's music reminds Joseph that he has support and that he can be anything he wants to be.
Kyle exhibited a sense of compassion and empathy that made each child at the Cary performance feel special. For example, at one point he gathered the children around him and gave them each a turn to speak into the microphone. My 8-year-old son confidently stood and said, "I'm Joseph and I'm allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, milk, egg and soy." It was touching to watch each child speak about their allergies and even more moving to see them look around at each other, feeling good to be surrounded by other kids who understand what it feels like to navigate life with food allergies.

I was impressed at how Kyle integrated educational information about food allergies through various games, conversations and props, in between song performances. He struck just the right balance that kept the kids moving — even diving for balls during a game of food allergy baseball — and laughing, but never downplaying the seriousness of food allergies. For example, Kyle showed the kids the EpiPens he carries for his own safety and discussed the importance of always carrying the life-saving medication. He also got a lot of laughs when he brought out his superhero puppets, Epi-Man and Epi-Man Jr. My daughter, Pamela, sat with me and quietly soaked up the entire performance. Once we got home, though, she couldn't stop mimicking the funny puppet that kept saying, "Epi, Epi, Epi."
Joseph had a blast singing along with Kyle and the other kids throughout the show, dancing and even holding a Stop sign to help perform the song, "Stop! Please Don't Feed Me". Joseph did not want to leave when the concert was over, lingering near Kyle after he received his orange "Food Allergies Rock!" guitar pick. He loved every minute of the performance, and was thrilled to meet and talk to Kyle, who took the time to talk to Joseph about his interests and to compare medical identification bracelets.

My dad summed up the experience in one word, "Phenomenal!" I agree.

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