Perham girl Haley Deibert has taken the metaphorical bull by its horns.
The 11-year-old has been facing a life-altering challenge since she was just 10 months old, when she was diagnosed with a severe peanut allergy.
Over the past decade, instead of lamenting her diagnosis, Haley has taken charge of it, for the benefit of herself and others.
With help from her mom, Cindy, Haley created her own business, called Allergy Apprentice, which provides supportive peanut allergy merchandise for kids and families.
Children with a peanut allergy can buy small cards, for example, to give out to others (such as restaurant servers) to alert them to their food allergy. Or they can buy ‘Read My Tag for Help’ t-shirts to wear when going to unfamiliar places. All the Allergy Apprentice products send a loud and clear ‘No Peanuts’ message.
Everything is available through the company’s website, www.allergyapprentice.com. Haley created the site especially with kids in mind, to help keep them safe when away at school, on field trips, at parties, sporting events or other activities.
“I just noticed how, when I was going out to eat, people didn’t even know what peanut allergies are,” Haley said in a recent interview. “I thought of finding a company, trying to spread more awareness, and that’s when we thought of Allergy Apprentice.”
The Deiberts discovered Haley’s allergy when she was eating cereal. She licked the sugar off a peanut morsel, and instantly puffed up and started scratching. She needed to be rushed to the hospital.
“For Haley, peanuts are life and death. If she would ever ingest it, she would have to put the epi-pen in and be at the hospital in minutes,” Cindy said. “She has to be very aware of her surroundings.”
It’s an everyday thing for Haley, who sits at a peanut-free lunch table at school with cold lunches she brings from home, and who will often have to educate restaurant owners and servers about the needs of people with peanut allergies whenever she goes out to eat. But she likes raising awareness of the issue.
“We feel that education keeps her safe. Sometimes, you do have to scare people and make sure they know its life or death,” Cindy said. “Some food allergies are a lot different and they are all very serious, but with Haley, if she messes up one time, it would not be a good thing. We take it very seriously.”
“We have a good support system, good reaction in the community and all over,” she added. “That’s the main purpose of her doing this website; people can go to it, read about her, and email her questions.”
Haley said she has received a lot of support from her classmates and the schools. Her class is very aware of the situation, and they check their snacks before bringing them into the room.
“Sometimes, dropping Haley off places is like leaving her alone with a loaded gun,” said Cindy. “That’s kind of how you feel as a parent, because something can happen at any time. She is very conscious and has to read labels. With a food allergy, you can’t take the risk.”
The Deiberts hoped Haley would outgrow her allergy to peanuts, which can happen in some cases. However, after testing in Omaha, Neb., Haley found out that her case is very severe, and she won’t grow out of it. She recently found out that she was allergic to tree nuts, as well.
Most 11-year-olds don’t think twice about the food they ingest or the lotions that they use, but for Haley, it’s a necessary part of life. She constantly reads labels on products and educates herself on things to watch out for.
She created Allergy Apprentice because she wanted to help other kids who were dealing with these same issues. In the case of her ‘Read My Tag for Help’ t-shirt, she designed the logo and came up with the idea for a unique label tag, which allows people to keep their information private while still offering easy access in case of an emergency.
“For littler kids, who don’t know much about their allergy, on the tag there are blank lines explaining what to do when they are having a reaction,” Haley explained. “If you are having a reaction, you can tell them to look on the tag.”
The idea for the tag came to Haley when she was thinking about how kids tend to forget phone numbers and other important information. It was also a way to help ease the concerns of her mother.
Haley’s ‘No Peanut’ business cards are in English with a Spanish translation. The cards notify others of what items the cardholding allergic child must avoid. That idea came during a family trip to the Dominican Republic.
“Everyone spoke Spanish. I was trying to tell the waiters about my allergy and they didn’t know,” Haley said. “I thought, ‘Why not make the card and it has No Peanuts in Spanish?’ You can give it to your waiter, they can give it to the chef and then they will know.”
She also came up with the idea for a canvas tote bag, which has a fun epi-pen logo she created herself.
“She wanted to do this for young kids, so she made little characters so they could relate,” Cindy said. “She wanted to have something fun for kids, but we wanted something useful for every day.”
Haley has several more ideas that she hopes to implement into her website in the near future. She wants to create a system that allows automatic text messages if you happen to get too far away from your epi-pen, and she is looking at making books for kids so they can educate their classmates about food allergies.
“Haley comes up with a lot of good ideas,” Cindy said. “We didn’t want to do it until she was ready to answer emails and talk to people. She has a very strong message. She is the headhunter with the whole thing; I just follow her lead.”
The business has the tagline, “Active, Alert, Alive,” encouraging kids with peanut allergies to live an active lifestyle in spite of their allergy, to be alert to their surroundings, and to use Allergy Apprentice merchandise to help stay alive and enjoy life to the fullest.
More stories like this can be found in the 2016 Healthy Lifestyles.