I was excited to be visiting the Rainforest Cafe in Piccadilly, London for the first time. I’d heard it was great fun and able to cope well when catering for people with allergies. This was no ordinary visit though. I had been invited to attend the 20th Anniversary Celebrations of Allergy UK as a thank you for helping out as a volunteer; speaking to journalists and providing testimonials and quotes about what it’s like to live with potential life threatening allergies.
I knew that I would only know one person so I was very glad to have my sister with me for moral support. She also has asthma, eczema, hay fever and in particular an allergy to grass. We were both looking forward to a night out, to catch up and meet some new people.
We arrived to a free cocktail and a room buzzing with conversation so we sidled over to two young girls and began to mingle. Most people there were representatives from Allergy UK’s suppliers, companies who supply products aimed at those with allergies, doctors, nurses and a few other families with allergies and volunteers.
It was an interesting night with the compere, award winners and speakers having to contend with elephants trumpeting, gorillas beating there chests, thunder and lightening and jungle noises.
Congratulations to all the award winners:
- Kathryn, Chris and their daughters Niamh and Hadyn wo have raised huge amounts of funds for the charity over the years were awarded the Spirit Award
- Dr Glenis Scadding who has worked closely with Allergy UK on their health advisory panel or the past fifteen years was awarded Allergy Specialist of the Year.
- Joy Allen was awarded Volunteer of the Year, she has been working with Allergy UK for over fifteen years and raised an average of £15,000 a year.
- Lisa Dixon, a qualified Allergy Nurse who works with Allergy UK on their helpline and does presentations on skin prick testing and workshops for GPs was awarded Allergy Nurse of the Year.
- By popular demand, and winning from votes by Allergy UK members, Tesco won the Supermarket of the Year award. Being the first supermarket to introduce free from food ranges they are leaders in the field.
- Trevor Brown, Co-Chairman of the Northern Ireland Regional Paediatric Allergy Service Planning Group won the Paediatric Allergy Team of the Year award for all that he and his team have achieved setting up allergy services in Northern Ireland.
- Dr Pamela Ewan CBE is head of the Allergy Department at Addenbrooke’s Hospital and has worked with Allergy UK since its inception. She was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award for the humanithy and dedication she has shown to allergy sufferers over the years.
It was a really inspirational evening with nurses and doctors and volunteers who had raised huge amounts of money all being recognised for their unstinting support and service to the allergy community.
One of my nicest memories of the whole evening was meeting Gillian Stevens, a fellow volunteer. I was inspired after chatting to her; her bright and breezy outlook on life was infectious, despite having so many allergies she can only eat vegetables! No meat, not much rice, no wheat or gluten, no dairy, not much fruit, no alcohol. I will never complain again about my own allergies.
The other highlight was discovering that my new friend, Gillian and I, had been chosen to cut the 20th anniversary cake. Imagine my amazement at finding my name in print on the programme! What an honour. We were both very proud to have been asked and had a bit of a laugh cutting the cake as if we were bride and groom.
As you would expect the cake was nut free and had been donated by Just Love Food Company and the RainForest cafe did a sterling job with the buffet meal, all of which was labelled with the allergens it contained. They were all very knowledgeable with what contained what and were able to answer my questions about whether I could eat certain things. The vegetable kebabs were very tasty.
Allergy UK put on a great awards celebration and were certainly very generous with the drinks; cocktails, followed by champagne for the toasts and wine with the meal.
Congratulations to all the award winners and thanks to Allergy UK. Keep up the good work. If you’re reading this and you went along to the awards ceremony I’d love to hear what you thought of the evening. If you are reading and thinking perhaps you’d like to offer your help as a volunteer to Allergy UK you can call them on 01322 619898 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 01322 619898 end_of_the_skype_highlighting and find out more about the various services they offer, and how to become a volunteer at www.allergyuk.org