Spreading Love and Care, One Allergy-Friendly Donation at a Time

June 2, 2023 | Community Support, News

(from left to right) Wendy Bejaige, Laura Edgell, and Olivia Edgell

Fifteen million Americans have a food allergy, a serious medical condition. The disease is becoming more common, with 1 in 13 children affected. But a local community leader is doing her part in educating and collecting donations for allergy-friendly foods at Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) of Northwest Ohio.

At four months old, Olivia Edgell suffered an allergy attack, including her eyes swelling shut and her inability to breathe. Olivia’s mom, Laura Edgell, said, “I remember that first year being so terrifying. I had no idea how to deal with all the allergies and the severe reactions. I just knew I had to figure it out. And keep my little girl protected.” That’s precisely what she has done, but in the process, she has also supported families staying at RMHC of Northwest Ohio by starting an allergy-friendly donation drive.

The Edgell family began collecting allergy-friendly donations three years ago. “I was volunteering at RMHC, making lunch for the families staying there. When I received a tour of the House, I realized the pantry did not have many quick snack/food options that were allergy-friendly brands,” says Laura Edgell. The donation drive begins in the second week of May, for Allergy Awareness Week, and lasts all of May, Allergy Awareness Month.

After the Edgell family’s first year of doing a donation drive, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northwest Ohio created an allergy-friendly portion of its pantry. Something Laura Edgell is proud of. “Our mission is to fill that allergy-friendly pantry yearly. And to give those families a few safe options while they stay there….and a little peace of mind,” says Laura Edgell. This year, Laura says they received over 50 boxes of donations in the first three days of the donation drive.

The Edgell family estimated that they received over 50 boxes of donations in the first three days of their campaign.

The Edgell family’s support to the community and Ronald McDonald House Charities is a breath of fresh air.

“It’s refreshing to have Laura and Olivia part of our community. Laura has made a lasting impact in the food sensitivity world and increased awareness and donations for something that is greatly needed,” says Wendy Bejaige, Director of Operations for RMHC of NW Ohio. “Our families don’t always tell us all of their needs. They may not tell us about food sensitivity and make accommodations on their own. Having food allergy-friendly items makes RMHC more inclusive and sensitive to their needs.”

Olivia Edgell is now a healthy, strong seven-year-old who loves to give back. “We are going to help so many families,” says Olivia. Her favorite allergen-friendly snacks include chocolate, cookies, and brownie from the popular Enjoy Life brand.

Olivia Edgell with all of the allergy-friendly donations supporting families at RMHC of Northwest Ohio.

Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northwest Ohio always needs pantry items to support families during their stay. Items needed can be found via our wish list or Amazon list at rmhctoledo.org/get-involved. For more information on pantry needs, please get in touch with Wendy Bejaige, Director of Operations, via email at wendy@rmhctoledo.org.