BRIDGEWATER, NJ - Bridgewater-Raritan High School junior Mark Rydberg has a nut allergy and his brother has many severe allergies – and now he is hoping to make Halloween a little easier for other children who have food allergies too.

“I know firsthand that Halloween can be a stressful time for food-allergic children and parents, and am hoping that these efforts will have a small but positive impact on those children in our community,” he said.

Rydberg is heading up a local community awareness effort to support children with food allergies through the Teal Pumpkin Project, part of a national campaign by FARE (Food Allergy Research Education).

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The project is a campaign to encourage people to identify their homes with a teal pumpkin and provide allergy safe treats to trick or treaters who need them.

Rydberg said he will be setting up tables and recruiting volunteers at the municipal complex on Oct. 30 and at some Trunk or Treat events. Kids will be able to paint teal pumpkins and pick up allergy information.

Rydberg said he heard about the program through announcements from FARE, which his family keeps tabs on because of his and his brother’s allergies.

“I am allergic to peanuts and tree nuts, and he is allergic to nuts too, along with dairy, soy, egg, sesame and mustard,” he said. “Halloween is a holiday that we often have mixed feelings about as my brothers and I love dressing up and trick or treating around the neighborhood with our friends, but, at the same time, have to be very careful, as most treats contain ingredients that one of us cannot eat or in some cases even touch, and we end up donating, giving away or throwing out most of those treats at the end of the night.”

Rydberg said he had been looking for some community service projects, as he is evaluating his path to Eagle Scout, and he found the Teal Pumpkin Project.

Rydberg said there are hundreds of kids in Bridgewater with food allergies, and finding a way to make Halloween a better experience and increase awareness to other families is worth the time.

Basically, he is hoping people will join in by painting and displaying a teal pumpkin prominently at their homes to show they have non-food treats available, and displaying a sign or poster from FARE to share the meaning of the pumpkin.

Rydberg said he contacted Bridgewater Recreation and the Van Holten Primary School PTO to see if they would allow him to promote this at their Halloween events, plus he reached out to local farms to see if he can get donated pumpkins to have kids paint teal and take home.

“I also have signs, activity sheets, non-food treats like spider rings, glow sticks, Halloween erasers and pencils that can be given away to kids with allergies in place of treats that are not safe for them,” he said.

Rydberg said he hopes to be at the Bridgewater Municipal Halloween event, Van Holten School for its Monster Mash and Trunk or Treat and possibly some other events, as well as through Cub Scout packs and his church.

“Hopefully it will generate interest and awareness, and I can grow the promotion plan next year to schools, sports teams and other organizations in town,” he said.

For more information, visit https://bit.ly/2m0F7cA.