Meet FAACT’s Teal Love Spotlight Contest Winner


Meet FAACT’s Teal Love Spotlight Contest Winner, Brennan from California

Wise beyond his 12 years of life, Brennan, lit up the room as he sat with mom, food allergy advocate, Shannon, and shared his food allergy story. A FAACT Camp TAG and Teen Retreat veteran, Brennan courageously and joyfully shared his food allergy journey – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Brennan detailed how he maneuvered through food allergy bullying, friendship, and a household move during the pandemic with an infectious the-glass-is-half-full energy. His life with food allergies began as an infant. Mom, Shannon, explained how her son's food allergies immediately presented initially in the form of eczema as an infant. Through challenging nighttime formula feedings, Brennan's father quickly discovered the culprit: dairy.

Subsequent visits to the pediatrician left Brennan's family frustrated as food allergies were never discussed or acknowledged. Upon finding a board-certified allergist, the family discovered Brennan's food allergies. Their food allergy journey began, or as Brennan deemed the moment, "the Brennan Beginnings". He currently manages egg, milk, peanut, tree nut, curry, mustard, and "sneaky" sesame. As a precocious child, who started speaking at age one, Brennan enjoyed homeschooling from preschool until kindergarten, when he attended a public school focused on gifted and talented children.

"It was magical," both Brennan and his mom explained. The school had a strict and supportive policy for no food in the classroom with a firm lunchtime policy. Brennan and his family were surrounded by loving and supportive friends, who walked the food allergy journey alongside the family by keeping Brennan safe and included.

After several incredible years of learning, friendship, and inclusion, Brennan's school principal, who ensured safe inclusion and leadership, moved on while the teaching staff changed. The previously strong food allergy support melted away. As time moved forward, the school's parent-base moved towards resistance and "not getting it," Shannon explained.

Brennan and other food-allergic students began to experience bullying and lunchroom taunting and teasing. Shannon felt the school community did not want to believe food allergies were serious, and activities including allergens were held as Brennan's 504 accommodations were violated. Brennan and his family were shocked to see old friends turning into bullies and behaving poorly towards Brennan's food allergies.

In-person bullying morphed into cyber-bullying, including threats of pouring milk on Brennan. The bullying grew and extended to other students. At this point, Shannon requested a review of her son's 504 accommodations, and that is when the family knew it was time to move on to another school. But, the COVID-19 Pandemic unexpectedly hit, and addressing the bullying and lack of food allergy knowledge had ceased as students moved to digital learning.

Brennan felt it is essential to share his experiences with the FAACT family today. Attending FAACT’s Camp TAG over the years and then our Teen Retreat last year, he met new friends, felt like he belonged, and participated in role-playing, which helped boost his confidence in managing his food allergies. Armed with confidence and knowledge, Brennan was able to address and process the school bullying. He shared that he had to leave a few friendships behind, too. Brennan explained that sometimes you need to drop people who are no longer kind and supportive. He now has a new best friend who calls once a week and understands and supports Brennan's management of his food allergies.

Even during the Pandemic, Brennan stays on the move by playing the piano, learning to cook, and playing tennis (since kindergarten). He received an awesome birthday video from American tennis professional, Madison Keys, for his Pandemic birthday, making for quite a memorable birthday.

Brennan and his family moved a few months ago from Chicago to sunny California, where he has taken up boogie boarding. He is also a brave food allergy clinical trial hero! Brennan participated in the DBV Technologies Viaskin Milk patch study.

Brennan's wish for kids with food allergies in 2021 is simple and heartfelt, "I hope more people take food allergies seriously and for there to be more food allergy-friendly options that everybody can eat. I also hope for my friends with food allergies to always stick up for themselves and find people who are kind and caring and don't make you feel bad or different."

* Tune in to FAACT's Roundtable Podcast in January to hear more from Brennan.