MOCHA (Mothers of Children Having Allergies) is a group of parents sharing information and supporting each other. The 400+ Chicagoland members of MOCHA know how frightening it can be to learn that your child has been diagnosed with severe, often life-threatening allergies.
Rest assured, you are not alone! We’ve all been there, and that’s why we formed this support group – to give you tips for dealing with the day-to-day aspects of managing food allergies and to help you cope with the stress that goes along with it. MOCHA realizes that every family’s situation is unique, but we can offer practical, general, non-medical advice that has worked for us.
Through our meetings, speakers, and informal get-togethers, MOCHA offers support, education, and – best of all – friendship, to help make managing your child’s food allergies just a little bit easier.
MOCHA is not a professional or medical organization. It is a group of parents sharing information and supporting each other. The discussions, meeting minutes, handouts, speakers, agendas, and other products of our support group do not constitute medical and/or legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Always discuss individual health questions and medical issues with a qualified personal physician.
MOCHA’s mission is to help parents of children who suffer from food allergies. By providing information and opportunities, we aim to make living with allergies just a little bit easier. We at MOCHA believe that it’s our job as parents to give our children the education, encouragement, experience and enthusiasm to get out into the world and safely live their lives to the fullest.
Kill 'em with Kindness!!
In 1997, Denise Bunning was learning to cope with two young sons who suffered from life-threatening food allergies: one who is allergic to milk, eggs, and tree nuts, and has asthma, and the other who is allergic to milk, treenuts, shellfish and beef, and suffers from Eosinophilic Esophagitis. Denise felt overwhelmed and alone, not knowing any other families in the Chicagoland area with food-allergic children. With the idea of starting a support group, she placed flyers in the offices of local pediatricians and allergists, attempting to reach out to others who would like to share experiences and lessons learned.
At about the same time, at a FAAN conference, she met Anne Thompson, another mother of food-allergic children. One of Anne’s children has peanut, treenut, egg and sesame anaphylactic allergies, numerous environmental allergies, eczema and asthma. The other child is allergic to peppermint, some cosmetics/fragrances, many medications and is a very mild asthmatic. Anne, too, thought a support group was a great idea. In the first month, nine calls came in, and the group has continued to grow exponentially since then. Now, twelve years later, MOCHA has hundreds of members, and there are at least twelve food-allergy support groups in the state of Illinois.
A former elementary school teacher, Denise holds a BA in Early Childhood/Special Education from Boston College, an MSED in Special Education from Northern Illinois University, and a CAS in School Administration from National-Louis University. Due to her experience in the school system, she is passionate about providing schools with appropriate guidelines for managing their food-allergic students. Denise recently co-authored Illinois House Bill 281 which creates those very guidelines for school districts throughout the entire state. Due to the committed efforts of Denise, Anne, and other parent advocates, Illinois has a newly-passed law requiring all school districts to develop guidelines for accommodating students with food allergies.
With a business and sales background, Anne Thompson rose to be a National Sales Manager for a book company and a National Account Manager for a consumer products company. She has used her persuasive talents to make many changes in policies for children with food allergies. Anne convinced her children’s school district to be one of the first in the country to write a school food allergy guideline. Anne and a team worked for eighteen months to draft and pass the policy which has gone on to be used as a template for many other policies across the country.
She also spearheaded and pushed through a bill in the Illinois legislature that requires EMTs to carry epinephrine on basic, intermediate and advanced life support trucks. She has lobbied in Washington, D.C. with her children, asking congressmen to support and pass food allergy legislation. Recently, she and her children lobbied and testified for the recently-passed Illinois School Food Allergy Policy.
She is currently working on projects that will impact older children with food allergies such as: nutrition for allergic athletes, traveling abroad with food allergies, working with university food services, dating with food allergies (the social scene) and managing accommodations for allergic high school travelers. She also has a strong interest in making changes in the airline industry's policies precipitated by her son once needing an emergency landing due to a mid-flight anaphylactic reaction.
Recently, Denise and Anne were asked to serve on the new FAI Advocacy Steering Committee, a group of leading parent advocates from across the United States who confront daily the dangers of raising children with severe food allergies. The Committee will work to help build a strong nationwide presence for the food allergy community in the public policy arena. The group will also actively seek to increase federal funding of food allergy research, as scientists believe that with proper funding, a cure can be found in less than a decade.
Above all else Denise and Anne value making personal connections, sharing insights from their experiences, and listening to people’s concerns. They are always open to chatting over a cup of coffee (MOCHA) or on the phone. No matter how busy they are, they still always find time to encourage parents who face the challenges of raising children with life threatening food allergies.
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