Staying Safe at Big Entertainment Events

A guest post by Teen Advisory Group member Ramsey Makan.

I love going out. Whether I’m heading to a movie, a game, a concert or a birthday party, I love leaving my house to have fun. However, the way I prepare for and act at these events is slightly different than everyone else for one reason: my long list of food allergies.

I am allergic to more than 20 foods, including seven of the top eight (excluding wheat) and various other seeds, lentils and legumes. With the help of my parents, I’ve learned over time how to deal with these allergies and have figured out how to enjoy myself as much as possible at entertainment events. One example took place last year.

From left, Abby Steele, Noreen Okarter, Ramsey Makan and Michael Trager at the Brooklyn Nets' Contains: Courage® Night

On Friday, March 1, 2019, FARE and the National Basketball Association’s Brooklyn Nets partnered for the very first Contains: Courage® Night at the Barclays Center. At the game, FARE’s Vice President for Development, Michael Trager, was joined by volunteers Noreen Okarter (founder of Food Sitch) and Abby Steele at a booth promoting the FARE Contains: Courage® campaign, which is all about recognizing and supporting courageous families with food allergies. A portion of the proceeds from the NBA ticket sales that night went to support FARE's mission. I was the only TAG member to attend one of these games, and I used what I’ve learned about how to successfully prepare for big events like this to guarantee my safety. Let’s retrace my steps for the evening.

First of all, I brought my own safe food. Because of my severe allergies, I never eat out at huge public locations like stadiums or other venues due to the fact that I don’t trust them. They cannot safely accommodate my allergies without risk of cross-contact, and I need to be able to reach the hospital easily if I have a reaction. So instead, I take my own food. It can be cookies, chips, a sandwich...anything. Before I headed out the door and hopped on the train to Brooklyn, I grabbed my epinephrine, a sweatshirt, a bunch of snacks, and my excitement!

While many large venues say they prohibit outside food, they are legally classified as “places of public accommodation,” and they must accommodate those with disabilities. Because food allergies may qualify as a disability, you can request exemptions to these rules. It’s important to know your rights so you can advocate for your own safety if you encounter anyone doing security checks who isn’t aware.

Fast-forward a few hours. I walked around and headed to my seat after visiting FARE’s booth. The next step lasted the longest: being vigilant about everything that was going on around me. What were people eating? Did they leave any crumbs? Were they walking down my aisle with something I’m allergic to? I turned around to see that the person behind and above me was eating Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, so I had to stay extra careful. There’s not much you can do to prevent someone from dropping their snacks, so you should always be aware of your surroundings, especially if you react to contact with your allergens.

I enjoyed myself all night long, and I didn’t let my disability prevent me from having the same amount of fun as everyone else. I loved the game, and even through the Nets lost, it was a whole lot of fun. So if you have food allergies and you’re heading to a game or concert or venue with some friends, just remember this advice: Bring food (and your epinephrine, of course!), know your rights, and stay vigilant. If you remember these strategies, you’ll never have to worry about attending entertainment events with food allergies again. Now go have fun!