DPOL -Amanda and Catherina Gores

Daily Point of Light # 5616 Nov 24, 2015

For sisters Amanda and Catherina Gores, severe food allergies weren’t an inconvenience suffered by someone else at school, ones that meant no one could bring a peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich for lunch or that led to birthday parties without the more traditional sweets. Instead, food allergies were a daily threat to the life of their brother Charles who suffers from a severe nut allergy and was diagnosed at age 1.
In the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in every 13 children suffers from a severe food allergy. These reactions are caused most often by shellfish, milk, peanuts, soy, wheat, fish, eggs and, in cases like Charles’, tree nuts. Of these children, 40 percent have experienced a severe food reaction, prompting nearly 300,000 visits to ambulatory care clinics annually.
As scary as these potential allergic reactions are, it can be far more frightening to have no way to stave them off or lessen them when they occur, Catherina says. It should be easier for families who need it to have access to epinephrine, the life-saving medication present in EpiPens® that’s used to control allergic reactions.
“Given the emotional drain and the fear of allergic reactions, we began to ask, ‘What would families do if they didn’t have access to EpiPens® like we do?’” she says. “They’re expensive and expire quickly.”
So, the two sisters – daughters of Detroit Pistons’ owner Tom Gores – decided to launch EpiPals, an organization that supports families with children with severe food allergies through education, awareness and EpiPen® distribution. They partnered with the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles (CHLA) to help gather donations and bring their idea to fruition.
To date, EpiPals has raised close to $800,000 and provided EpiPens® to hundreds of children from families that wouldn’t be able to afford them, Amanda says. Making these devices available to families is important because keeping active, effective EpiPens® is an ongoing cost.
In addition to collecting money to fund EpiPen® distribution, the sisters are also committed to raising awareness of food allergies among the public. Beginning in late 2013, the sisters began hosting events that highlighted the prevalence and dangers of food allergies. An initial event launch at an L.A. Lakers basketball game in November that year led to a holiday party with crafts and movies, catered with allergen-free treats.
In May 2014, they distributed donation jars in area businesses both to collect funds for EpiPen® purchases and to increase public knowledge. That same month, they hosted an educational session in conjunction with CHLA that featured Andrew Clark, M.D., an allergist with the department of medicine at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.
They also took steps to make Halloween safer for children with food allergies. During the holiday, the sisters sold allergen-free treats for $3 that people could purchase and keep on-hand for children who might otherwise not be able to participate in the candy-laden festivities. In addition, they partnered with Vermont Nut Free Chocolates during the 2014 holiday season, gathering a portion of each purchase price to support EpiPals.
The sisters also expanded their work beyond Los Angeles this October. They held a shopping fundraiser at the store Intermix in Detroit where 10 percent of all sales were donated to the University of Michigan Food Allergy Center.
So far, the response has been far greater than what either Catherina or Amanda anticipated.
“Even though there is not a cure today for some allergies, we saw a way to make an impact now on the current lives, futures, and hopes of kids,” Catherina says. “It has been gratifying to see these immediate results.”

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