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Food Allergy Advocates

Kyle Dine’s Musical Message: It’s OK to Be Allergic

kyledineWhen Kyle Dine graduated from business school nine years ago, he went a decidedly different route from his peers. Rather than get an office job, Dine, who is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, egg, fish, shellfish and mustard, took a position as a janitor in a local hospital and saved enough money to put out a CD, called “You must be Nuts”, with songs geared towards kids with food allergies.

His gamble paid off, and today Dine is a rock star of the allergy world, delighting allergic children by singing about the daily issues they face, and touring schools to educate their peers. Dine, who plays guitar, sings and uses puppets to convey messages about allergy safety, is also a consultant with Anaphylaxis Canada and owns a business that provides allergy cards for travelers, called Allergytranslation.com.

At Allergic Living, we are most pleased to show our appreciation of Dine by making him our latest Allergy Advocate series honoree. We salute him for using his talent, brains and energy to excite and empower the allergy generation. Dine recently took some time out of his spring tour to speak with senior contributor Claire Gagné about kids with allergies, his new DVD and why he loves his unconventional career.

How much time do you spend traveling and doing shows?

Last year, I did a total of 120 days of shows, so it was very busy. I typically do three months in the fall and three months in the spring where I’m performing pretty much every day, doing my educational assemblies during the week and, often, going to food allergy support groups or performing at public concerts or fundraising events on the weekend.

What is it like when you’re at a school?

There’s a lot of excitement. When the students walk into the gym they see a guitar, banners and all of my puppets on the stage. For them, it looks like their day is going to get a lot brighter. The teachers and the administration are usually very welcoming. It really says a lot about a school when they bring in an outside educator to do a presentation about allergy awareness. From their standpoint, they’ve already put in a lot of policies and now it’s time to get the students on board.

How do the schools find out about you?

It has really grown organically since I started this in 2007. When I go into a school in a certain area of the country, word starts to spread. I hand out brochures to the teachers at that school and they want the assembly at their kids’ schools. People also find me through social media.

kyle-dine-allergy-concert-22Do you know which kids in the crowd have food allergies?

At first, the only identifier would be some type of carrying case on them or a MedicAlert bracelet. But as I’m performing I’ll, for example, hold up an EpiPen or the Auvi-Q [Allerject in Canada] and ask if anybody what it is. You see the kids who are real experts, listing off all the symptoms of an allergic reaction, and giving really detailed answers. It gives them the opportunity to be confident in front of all their peers and share their knowledge.

When you have the chance to speak with young kids who have food allergies, what do they tell you?

I always ask them what they’re allergic to and we talk about what they do to stay safe, and I give them big kudos if they’re wearing their epinephrine on them. Sometimes they ask me questions like, “Will I ever get rid of allergies?” You can see they’re really affected by them.

I try to empathize and say something like, “it’s not always easy and food allergies are a challenge, but they’re not the worst thing in life. You can grow up and be anything you want.”

What drives you to tour and educate in schools and support groups?

It’s a dream job. It’s a lot of fun. I absolutely love traveling and I love kids. But I think the thing that drives me to keep going is the fact that I can only imagine how it would have affected me if there was someone like me when I was a kid.

What was sorely missing when I was growing up was anyone telling me that it’s OK to have food allergies. I remember not wanting to be associated with my allergies and not always disclosing them, and not always having my medicine with me. I just think what kind of difference it would have made to have a role model saying, “You’re doing a great job. Keep it up.” I think it would have decreased the number of allergic reactions that I had.

What kind of feedback do you get from kids who don’t have food allergies? Do you get a chance to speak with them when you’re at the school?

The more that I am with kids, the more I realize they really just want to keep their friends safe. When I ask them, “Put up your hand if you know someone with a food allergy,” all hands go up, compared to a room of adults that will say, “I never knew anybody with a food allergy.” The food allergy phenomenon is affecting this generation.

Next: Dine’s DVD Project for Schools

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