"I Am Living the Dream!"

"I Am Living the Dream!"
Heidi Willins (left) & Katherine Schug (right)

by Katherine Schug, FAACT Teen Advisory Council Member

During FAACT’s Teen Conference in Chicago two weeks ago, I learned about self-empowerment and “rewriting my script.” I started the magical weekend with a powerful presentation from Curtis Zimmerman, a motivational and humorous speaker. He taught me and many other that we cannot keep focusing on the past or let it influence our future. We have to “re-write” our own script. Mistakes aren’t people; they are events! He also taught us to ‘Live the Dream!’ Live every moment to the fullest and believe that you can achieve the impossible, because when you believe in yourself, anything is possible!

By giving us advice about managing our food allergies in our everyday lives, the speakers at FAACT’s Teen Conference gave us confidence! Presenters such as Dr. Matt Greenhawt, Dr. Ruchi Gupta, Nurse Kim Mudd, and Chef Keith Norman have made managing the emotional impact of food allergies and dining out much easier. I found it very beneficial to speak with them.

This weekend was both educational and entertaining. There were presentations, ice breakers, and fun activities. On both Friday and Saturday evenings there were thrilling parties. There was a mysterious murder at the masquerade party on Friday, filled with screaming, gasping, and laughter. It was exciting for us to try to solve the mystery of the death of the mayor. Many teens who attended the conference played the part of the suspects. I discovered a variety of actors and actresses in the room. It was truly a fantastic night.  I not only got to wear a gorgeous mask, but I also got the opportunity to socialize. Saturday was the costume party. I saw bumble bees, police officers, a Minecraft zombie, a cowgirl, a clown, zombies, Superman, and many more creative outfits. I dressed up as an Epinephrine Patrol Officer -- if you are not carrying your epinephrine, I arrest you! From 7:00 to 9:30 there was dancing, singing, karaoke, Jenga, Twister, Stacker cups, and a costume contest. Kendall Hollinger, Kyle Dine, Kenton Duty, Reed Pake, and a variety of talented singers showed off their talent by singing and playing instruments on the stage.  

Before Saturday night’s party, I spoke on the Teen Panel, responding to questions parents may have about teens and food allergies. I was honored to be speaking on the panel with inspirational teens: Kenton Duty, Kendall Hollinger, Reed Pake, and Zac Chelini. There were fantastic questions asked, and when my fellow food allergy advocates answered, I learned a little bit more about them and their experiences with managing food allergies.

This weekend started out with an inspirational presentation and ended with a tear-shedding slideshow. The slideshow included pictures that Eleanor Garrow-Holding and Kyle Dine took during the conference. Throughout the time period of FAACT’s Teen Conference, I didn’t feel lonely or left out, I felt included. I wasn’t known as the “kid with food allergies,” I was known as Katherine Schug. I am so thankful to have met some magnificent role models and new friends. I am honored to have met Eleanor Garrow-Holding, the inspiration behind FAACT. She is truly an inspiring, generous, hardworking woman who is definitely making an impact in the food allergy community. This year’s FAACT’s Teen Conference was FAACTabulous, and I am looking forward to next year’s conference.