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West Michigan mother organizes Halloween event for children with food allergies

The first annual Teal Pumpkin Trunk or Treat supports the Teal Pumpkin Project, which raises awareness for food allergies during Halloween.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Many kids look forward to dressing up and saying "trick-or-treat" to get a handful of candy on Halloween, but 5.6 million children in the U.S. who have food allergies have to read the ingredient label before they eat it. 

That's why one West Michigan mother is supporting the Teal Pumpkin Project by hosting the first annual Teal Pumpkin Trunk or Treat, which gives away non-food treats to avoid the risk of an allergic reaction. 

Kaylie Stearns' daughter is newly diagnosed with peanut, egg and avocado allergies, and as she prepares for her daughter's first Halloween trick-or-treating, she wanted to make sure her daughter was safe. 

"I wanted a place...that is fully inclusive no matter what food allergy a child has," said Stearns, the organizer of the event. 

The top eight allergens in the U.S. are milk, eggs, fish, crustacean, shellfish, wheat, soy, peanuts and tree nuts, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). 

As children went trunk-to-trunk Thursday, instead of candy, they got things like small toys, stickers and glow sticks, according to Stearns.

This is part of the Teal Pumpkin Project's initiative to make sure that children who are allergic to common Halloween candy are able to put something in their Halloween candy bucket. 

The Teal Pumpkin Project was founded by the Food Allergy Research & Education organization which brings awareness to trick-or-treaters with food allergies by urging homeowners to place a teal-colored bucket - the color of food allergy awareness - in front of their home to show they have non-food alternatives.

They also suggest that homeowners separate candy and non-food alternatives into separate bowls. 

According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, here is a list of the top eight allergen-free Halloween candies. 

Stearns said the event was more successful than she dreamed and the smiles on the kids' faces made the work she put into organizing the event worth it. 

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