NEW PALESTINE — When she hits the road Halloween night, Addison Hooker will be on the lookout.
Not for the homes giving out the biggest candy bars or the ones with inviting decorations; the 10-year-old New Palestine girl clad in an Eiffel Tower costume will have her eyes peeled for a holiday welcome of a different kind — a teal pumpkin, just like the one sitting on her own front stoop.
Addison suffers from a rare form of epilepsy, and dietary restrictions prohibit her from eating sugar as part of her treatment. As a result, trick-or-treating would be out of the question were it not for colorful orbs indicating families who are participating in the Teal Pumpkin Project, a nationwide effort to make the holiday tradition inclusive for children with food restrictions by providing nonedible treats such as toys, stickers and pencils instead of candy.
By painting a pumpkin teal and placing it on the front porch or putting a picture of a teal pumpkin on the front door, families send the message they have something for all trick-or-treaters.
Story continues below gallery
Addison, a Sugar Creek Elementary School fourth-grader, has suffered about 500 seizures just this year and must be careful about every piece of food she puts in her mouth.
Many things about her daily routine — cheerleading, spending time with family and friends, playing her new violin — are perfectly normal for a child her age.
But at mealtimes, she is restricted from eating pastries, rice, cereals, pasta and candy, among other things.
The holidays, especially one centered on sweet treats, can be especially tough on children like Addison who are on special diets due to medical conditions and food allergies. But thanks to the Teal Pumpkin Project, they can join their peers in celebrating.
The program was created by Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) to promote the inclusion of all trick-or-treaters throughout the Halloween season.
And the Hooker family is all about spreading the word, even providing some special treats to neighbors to pass out to children with food allergies.
“If we didn’t have the teal pumpkin, the neighbors would give me candy, and I would have to say, ‘No, thank you’ a lot,” Addison said.
Jessica Hooker, Addison’s mother, was grateful to learn about the Teal Pumpkin Project. It will allow Addison to trick-or-treat like other kids her age — but only at homes displaying a teal pumpkin.
Hooker has printed several copies of a teal pumpkin picture to hand out to neighbors and will make sure participating families are equipped with safe treats to give to Addison and others with food allergies.
For Addison’s family, the teal pumpkin is about more than Halloween toys; it’s a show of support from those who might not know Addison’s story but are nonetheless supporting her cause.
“To know that we have this little sign that says our family is sympathetic or knows that your child can’t have candy like other kids can is huge for us and other families,” Hooker said.
“There are kids in our community with severe food allergies to peanuts, gluten and all kinds of things that can be life-threatening.”
Addison developed epilepsy two years ago and has not responded well to medicine. She spent her fall break at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis, where she began a new program, the ketogenic diet, to help combat her seizures. The diet was developed at Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1920s to treat the specific type of epilepsy Addison has. It calls for a strict high-fat low-carbohydrate diet forbidding the patient from consuming any form of sugar.
Addison started the diet two weeks ago with the hope the seizures will decrease as her body adjusts to the good fats and carbohydrates that now make up the bulk of her meals. The family will not know for at least 90 days if the diet will work for Addison, but they are committed to it for the next two years.
“We’re kind of expecting a miracle here because so far her body has rejected five different forms of medication,” Hooker said.
Kara Borcherding, pediatric dietitian at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital, said children like Addison deserve a community’s support. And on holidays, that means remembering festivities can’t always be one-size-fits-all.
The Teal Pumpkin is a step toward inclusion for all children, she said.
“It’s a major awareness thing,” Borcherding said. “Just knowing how widely spread food allergies and medical conditions are in communities and to have a non-candy item available helps the child not stand out because they are getting a treat.”
Launched as a national campaign by Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) in 2014, the Teal Pumpkin Project raises awareness of dietary restriction and promotes inclusion of all trick-or-treaters throughout the Halloween season.
Placing a teal pumpkin on your doorstep indicates you have nonedible treats available for children for whom candy is not an option.
Visit footallergy.org to learn more.
County trick-or-treat hours
(All on Saturday)
Greenfield: 5 to 8 p.m.
Fortville: 5 to 8 p.m.
Greenfield: 5 to 8 p.m.
McCordsville: 5 to 8 p.m.
New Palestine: 5 to 9 p.m.
Neighborhoods outside city or town limits: 5 to 8 p.m.