November 2023 Leadership Spotlight: Kahlil Monje, Hometown Hero
High school senior Kahlil Monje recently organized and led a Hometown Heroes Walk for Food Allergy in his community. Hear what inspired him to raise food allergy awareness through this volunteer-driven event and learn how you can be a Hometown Hero, too!
Guest post by Kahlil Monje
My name is Kahlil Monje. I live in Boise, Idaho. I am a 17-year-old senior (12th grader) who attends Timberline High School. And I am no stranger to food allergies.
I have had severe food allergies to all the eight most common food allergies (egg, milk, wheat, soy, peanut, tree nut, fish, and shellfish) since birth. My brother also has the same allergies, minus milk. I have had plenty of experience with food allergies, from the moment I wake up to the moment I go to sleep, for my entire life.
I used to think that it was just me and my brother, because I barely knew anyone else with the same problem. But then, meeting others at school, the local allergy clinic, and other places, I began to realize that this problem was much more widespread than I thought. I realized that there are so many people suffering through the same condition.
I also remembered something: my parents and I used to attend a food allergy walk before it shut down in 2017. If we restarted that, with a fundraising aspect for FARE, we could help spread awareness and raise money to help those with food allergies in our community, in the Treasure Valley of Idaho, and all across the nation.
That is why I started the walk. My family had such a hard time getting me through my early years with so many deadly allergies. Others going through the same thing now need more opportunities. If we spread awareness of the food allergy problem, we can help them through this difficult life. If we research new ideas and initiatives, we can lessen the amount of worry and stress that these families have to go through. They wouldn’t have to live through the same burdensome struggles I went through.
We started planning for the event all the way back in August. Our first step was to contact FARE, since we had no idea how to start a food allergy walk. I was able to communicate with Patrick Evans, who manages the FARE Hometown Heroes Walk for Food Allergy program. He helped set up our fundraising and information website, count the number of registrants, and bring many valuable giveaways for the event.
After that, we began reaching out to practically everyone in our community, including the local allergy clinic, food and drink sponsors, monetary and coupon sponsors, and any other business that could donate. We also set up posters at my school, my workplace, the clinics, and other community locations.
Then, we began taking into account everything that we would need for the event. We borrowed, bought, and gathered all the supplies for the event. My cousin helped design the banner, my mom worked on the table designs, and I coordinated all of these as the days went by. After many emails, calls, and communication issues, we had everything in place. We loaded all the materials into the car the night before, ready for the event the next day.
The event itself was very successful and, in fact, received news coverage before the event and during the event. We reached our goal of $5,000 by the end of the event and brought together about 100 community members (more would have joined if not for the unforeseen cold weather). We handed out many informational food allergy giveaways and spread plenty of allergy information to the community.
Thank you to The Allergy Group in Idaho for greatly supporting the event. Thank you to all our sponsors who supported the raffle event such as Marlena Jewelry, Boise Hawks, Zoo Boise, Top Golf, and the Discovery Center. And thank you to all the donors who supported the event.
By coordinating the event, I learned that anyone can start a Hometown Heroes Walk. If you have the initiative, you too can be a food allergy awareness advocate. All that it takes is a willingness to make a change, and a quick sign up on the FARE Hometown Heroes webpage. FARE can lay the foundation for your allergy awareness goals.