The Suhy family of Independence, Ohio, last November experienced the unimaginable tragedy of losing their daughter to an anaphylactic reaction.
Allison Rose Suhy, 18, was a college freshman when she died after eating a donut that turned out to contain peanut, to which she was allergic. Now the family is launching a foundation in her name and her honor.
“The best thing about Allison is that she loved to help people,” her father, Michael Suhy, told Allergic Living in a phone interview. “We’re carrying on that legacy by trying to help others with food allergies.”
With the Allison Rose Foundation, Suhy, along with his wife Rebecca Suhy, want to spread awareness about the severity of food allergies and how to respond to an allergic reaction. They are creating an educational program, specifically aimed at young people. Suhy is particularly concerned about young people with food allergies as they begin to gain independence.
“It’s when you leave high school and go off to college or get a job, when you leave the cocoon, that’s when the education becomes crucial,” says the father. Allison was diagnosed with a peanut allergy as a toddler, and had only experienced mild reactions, like rash, as a child.
When tragedy struck, Allison was just three months into her first year at Ohio University, and studying with the intent of becoming a teacher. Suhy was only hours back home from visiting his daughter for a college-sponsored “Dad’s Weekend,” when he received a call that his daughter had suffered an anaphylactic reaction.
“She was at someone’s house and for that weekend, parents had brought appetizers, pastries and all kinds of food for their kids,” said Suhy. “I wasn’t there when it happened.”
“The way I understand it, she was given epinephrine,” said Suhy, a fire chief in a village north of Independence. “I know that the paramedics on scene also gave her epinephrine,” he said.
Suhy has seen a lot of life and death situations through his job. “But when you get the call that something happens to your child and you hear CPR in the background being talked about – everything I learned goes out the window,” he said. “You turn into every other dad. There is nothing that can prepare you.”
The family wants to do their part to educate peers and friends of those who live with food allergies. Suhy says Allison sat at a peanut-free table in middle school and in high school, and her teachers and coaches knew about her allergy to peanut. But he wants to ensure that precautions and preparations continue into adulthood. “I don’t want someone else sitting in my seat and going through what we went through,” he says.
“I could waste someone’s day telling them about Allison,” said the father of his daughter. “She volunteered at an autism camp during her summers. She loved helping others. She was ultimately an organ donor, too.”
The new Allison Rose Foundation will host a founder’s fundraising event on January 26, 2019 in Independence. Funds from donations and from the inaugural event will be put toward education scholarships, awareness campaigns, research and food allergy advocacy. Learn more about the Allison Rose Foundation here.