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New Hanover Author Tackles Childhood Allergies
Written by Kelly Chandler Staff Reporter
2014-12-17

New Hanover Township author Danelle Matlack will be holding a book signing Friday night from 5-7 p.m. at B&H Home Market, 30 E. Fourth Street, East Greenville.    

                For many parents, sending their child to his or her first day of kindergarten brings on a certain level of anxiety.  Will they get on the right bus?  How will their peers treat them? 

                But for Danelle Matlack, the first day of school brought on a whole new set of challenges as her son, Liam, has a potentially deadly set of allergies to dairy, eggs, peanuts and tree nuts.

                So Matlack, who worked in community relations and marketing, decided to take on the topic in the form of a children's book she dreamed up during bedtime story time with Liam.   And "Alfie the Allergic Alligator Goes to School" was born.

                The book, released Oct. 7 of this year, was published by Mascot.  It has turned into a sort of crusade for Matlack, who had no previous experience as an author or with food allergies.  She now maintains a Twitter presence and Facebook page on the topic, offering recipes and tips for other parents.  

                But the world of food allergies was not always an old hat.

                She talks about a time when, as a baby, Liam started reacting violently to certain foods.  His skin would blow up with hives, his face and lips would swell.  And if he had oatmeal, his face would turn white, his lips blue and he would projectile vomit.  His family took him to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia where he was diagnosed.

                "We had a crash course in EpiPens, Benadryl and things like that," she said, of finding out Liam was allergic to dairy, egg, peanuts, tree nuts, oats, sesame and clams when he was an infant.  "And later as we tried to educate him the best we could, we discovered there wasn't that many resources out there." 

                So Matlack, who said she never imagined writing a book, sat down one night after she got Liam and sister Leighton in bed and wrote Alfie.

                It chronicles the days leading up to the first day of kindergarten for a young alligator who loves trains and playing with his friends.  It deals with wearing an allergy alert bracelet (which is not just for girls, Alfie learns), feeling different and starting school with non-allergic classmates. 

                A section at the end of the book serves as a glossary on food allergies, what they are, and what is used to treat them.

                The now stay-at-home mom said she hopes the book offers a wide array of messages and that it will educate kids, parents, grandparents and school communities about food allergies, which have become more prevalent.

                According to the Food Allergy Research and Education organization, FARE, up to 15 million Americans have food allergies and one in every 13 children is affected.

                "We wanted to teach him that even though it's not fun to have the food allergies, at least we can help other people," she said of Liam, now a 5-year-old student at Blessed Teresa of Calcutta in Schwenksville.

                Matlack has been on a whirlwind tour of area schools, like Blessed Teresa, Coventry Christian, Goddard School and Evans and Earl elementary schools.  At each one, she brings trainer EpiPens, medical alert bracelets and talks about allergies.

                On Friday night Matlack will  hold a book signing at B&H Home Market at 30 E. Fourth Street in East Greenville.   

                She said she hopes to get into Upper Perkiomen and New Hanover school districts sometime soon and to do a book signing at the Upper Perkiomen Library.  She will also be speaking this spring at a Life Long Learning session.

                Her book can be found on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Booksamillion.com and at the Book Nook and Patsy's Potpourri and Gifts in Boyertown. 

                And while it's not always easy to have food allergies, Matlack said she is proud of how Liam handles himself. 

                "For kids like Liam I think a lot of it is emotional.  It's the realization that he is different and that he can't have what they can have. There's times when it's hard and times when it's not hard.  We try not to make it a big deal.  He does well with it.  It's about making it as routine as possible, a safe routine."

                "It's funny how the things that aren't wonderful in your life can turn out to be something good."


 

 

 

 

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