In September 2015, Andrea Mariano started her first year at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. She was 18 years old and allergic to peanuts and dairy. Her life was one of constant vigilance to ensure she was not exposed to her allergens. Tragically, she had an anaphylactic reaction to a drink she ordered from Booster Juice on campus and passed away on September 18, 2015.
Andrea grew up in Thornhill about 15 minutes from where I live. When I heard of her death I was devastated. I did not know her or her family but her allergies are similar to those of my children and her death solidified my fears.
At the time of Andrea’s death my husband and I had already been talking about doing a fundraising walk to find a cure for food allergies for a few years. Andrea’s death jolted us in to action. We reached out to the Mariano family and they too wished to channel their immense grief and heartbreaking loss in to something big so that Andrea would never be forgotten. The Mariano family’s courage and perseverance in the face of tragedy strengthens and inspires us.
In February 2016 we began working with the Mariano family and formed a planning committee. Together we organized and held the first annual Walk for Andrea in the Fall of 2016. All funds raised went to the Sick Kids Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis program to find a cure for life threatening food allergies. It was a beautiful day. We walked together to remember Andrea. We walked together to raise awareness about food allergies. We walked together to show our children they are not alone in their struggle living with life threatening food allergies. We walked to find a cure.
I wish I had met Andrea. I did not know her but I will never forget her. And, we will not let her be forgotten. We will continue to work together to honour Andrea’s memory and ensure a cure is found.
The second annual Walk for Andrea will be on Sunday September 24, 2017 at the Milne Dam Conservation Park in Markham, Ontario.
More information about the Walk is at http://walkforandrea.ca/