When I heard that our local mall puts on holiday kids’ events throughout the year, I was excited. So was my son, Nolan.
In the spring of 2010, I packed Nolan in the car and headed to Place D’Orleans mall Easter event. It started off great – we even ran into friends, and the two boys were soon happily working away at the craft table. Then I looked up and had one of those “Where did everyone go?” moments. Parents and kids were racing off in all directions. Unbeknownst to me, the event included a store-to-store trick or treat-style Easter candy gathering.
It didn’t take long before I parted ways with our friends, as it became apparent this wasn’t going to work. Our son was too young to understand he wouldn’t be able to have any of the candy and chocolates, but he was very aware that he wasn’t getting ‘something’ to hold like everyone else. I tried to be creative; I asked one shop owner to put ticket-gun price stickers on his hand. But that wasn’t enough to quell the tears welling up in his eyes.
Sure, I could have just bought him something, but that wasn’t what he wanted. He wanted to be a part of the festivities. To compound the issue, now there were endless children eating very unsafe treats, who in turn were touching everyone and everything in the mall. I left the mall that day with my son in tears, causing the mommy guilt tears to flow also.
The next day, I wrote an e-mail to the mall’s management company. I thanked them for hosting wonderful children’s activities at our mall outside of Ottawa. But I also explained that, while not intentional, these events were in fact excluding children with food allergies.
A woman named Kirsty Allaire at Primaris Retail Management received the e-mail. Kirsty was empathetic, supportive and eager to know what changes could be made in order to make mall events safer and more inclusive. She promised to see she what she could do for the next big mall event: Halloween.
Halloween rolled around, and I didn’t hear from her. Turns out she purposely hadn’t told me ahead of time what accommodations she had made. She wanted to see the look on my face.
To say that I was surprised by the accommodations the mall management made is to hugely understate.
Next page: Author is awed by the allergy accommodations