In 1997, Denise Bunning was learning to cope with two young sons who suffered from life-threatening food allergies: one who is allergic to milk, eggs, and tree nuts, and has asthma, and the other who is allergic to milk, treenuts, shellfish and beef, and suffers from Eosinophilic Esophagitis. Denise felt overwhelmed and alone, not knowing any other families in the Chicagoland area with food-allergic children. With the idea of starting a support group, she placed flyers in the offices of local pediatricians and allergists, attempting to reach out to others who would like to share experiences and lessons learned.
At about the same time, at a Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) Conference, she met Anne Thompson, another mother of food-allergic children. One of Anne’s children has peanut, treenut, egg and sesame anaphylactic allergies, numerous environmental allergies, eczema and asthma. The other child is allergic to peppermint, some cosmetics/fragrances, many medications and is a very mild asthmatic. Anne, too, thought a support group was a great idea. In the first month, nine calls came in, and the group has continued to grow exponentially since then.
Above all else Denise and Anne value making personal connections, sharing insights from their experiences, and listening to people’s concerns. They are always open to chatting over a cup of coffee (MOCHA) or by email, phone, or text. No matter how busy they are, they still always find time to encourage parents who face the challenges of raising children with life threatening food allergies.
DENISE A. BUNNING
Denise A. Bunning is an educator, support group leader and advocate who actively works to improve the lives of children with or without food allergies. A former elementary school teacher, Denise earned a BA in Early Childhood/Special Education from Boston College, an MSED in Special Education from Northern Illinois University, and a CAS in School Administration from National Louis University.
Denise co-founded MOCHA (Mothers of Children Having Allergies) – a support group for food-allergic families. In 2010, she served on the committee organized by the Illinois State Board of Education and the Illinois Department of Public Health to author guidelines for the management of students with life-threatening food allergies. The Guidelines for Managing Life-Threatening Food Allergies in Illinois Schools served as the basis for school board policies state-wide. Denise also co-authored The Food Allergy Experience with Dr. Ruchi Gupta. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), the Founders’ Board of Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, and the Women’s Board of Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital.
Denise became involved in Food Allergy Advocacy after her two sons were both diagnosed with life-threatening food allergies and related issues. Denise and her husband of over 27 years, Dave, reside in a suburb of Chicago, Illinois. Their sons, now adults, are thriving.
ANNE K. THOMPSON
Anne has an extensive sales background and uses that knowledge as a support group leader for parents and an advocate for children with life-threatening food allergies. She was a National Sales Manager for a book publisher and a National Account Manager for a national consumer products company. She has worked for Duracell, Hershey Chocolate Company and Crayola Products. Anne co-founded a Chicago area support group (MOCHA, Mothers of Children Having Allergies) for parents of food allergic children in 1997. Anne was instrumental in initiating and writing one of the country’s first school district food allergy guidelines. The guidelines became a template for many policies across the country. She and Denise Bunning orchestrated the first food allergy walk in Chicago. She spearheaded and pushed through one of the first bills in the country that required EMTs to carry epinephrine on ambulances in Illinois. Additionally, she lobbied and pushed for the passing of the Illinois School Food Allergy Policy. In service to FARE, Anne served on the Advocacy Leadership Council, the Support Group Advisory Council, and is a MenuTrinfo Food Allergy Master Trainer. Anne received the 2014 FARE Vision Award for Outstanding Community Citizen at the FARE National Conference in recognition for her dedication to educating and advocating for food allergies. Anne has spoken at numerous NACUFS (National Assoc. of College and University Food Service) conferences bringing awareness to food service representatives from over 50 colleges. She was part of the inception and a presenter at the FARE Summit Conferences which over 65 colleges attended and was instrumental in much of the foundational information of the FARE College Program. She also co-chaired a parent-teen subcommittee that provided input for the college program.
Anne has a grown son and daughter. One is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, eggs and sesame, has EOE, oral allergy syndrome, environmental allergies, asthma and eczema. The other has seasonal allergies and asthma.