I am JJ: CANpaign goal — Land of Not children's book in 1,000 schools.

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Back-to-School Food Allergy CANpaign: Help share Land of Not children's books with 1,000 schools! 

"M&M" is not one of the core words of my Back-to-School Food Allergy CANpaign, but it’s the word that started it all.

You see, I can’t eat an M&M. Not one. Because of my dairy allergy, if I do eat one, I could go into anaphylactic shock.  When I was younger, I was scared of M&Ms. I really was.  I was scared of all things dairy and tree nuts. For the longest time, I walked around with a big M&M in front of my face. And, because I projected that fear to others, it’s all they saw when they looked at me.

“I’m JJ and I can’t eat nuts or drink milk," I'd always say with every introduction. I was, in essence, the food allergy kid. 

Then something changed. Somewhere along the way, I went from a scared little boy who refused to get on the school bus his first day of Kindergarten because a fifth grader was eating a Twinkie* at the bus stop, to the president of my high school class, to a 20-year-old who lives in the Land of Can every single day. 

Somewhere along the way, I learned how to move the M&M safely to the side — I learned how to balance safety with normalcy.  And that opened up a world of CAN for me. 

I want to share my CAN experiences with other young people with food allergies and their peers. And I'm ready to do it in a big, big way. There are 100,000 elementary schools across the nation, and I want children in every one of those schools to experience the tenets of CAN and to understand the importance of food allergies by reading my children's book Land of Not.

OK. Maybe 100,000 is a bit too ambitious for my first CANpaign. Let's say 1,000 schools. Over the next 50 days. Can you help make this happen? Can you buy a book and donate it to a school as part of our School Food Allergy CANpaign? If you have a school in mind, awesome. If not, I'll pick one. 

For this CANpaign, I'm looking to send Land of Not (and accompanying teacher's guide) to representatives in 1,000 schools. A nurse or counselor? A teacher or librarian? The principal? I'll send them the book to read and then ask them to share it with their students. I know once they read it, they'll immediately recognize its importance. They'll pass on the lessons of CAN. They'll pass on awareness of food allergies. 

When I first completed Land of Not, I shared it with educators and psychologists far brighter than me. Their response was clear: Land of Not should be in every elementary school across the nation. The message of the book, as one veteran educator said, will "Inspire, empower and transform every child to understand their possibilities rather than define themselves by their limitations."

As we launch this CANpaign to send books across the nation, we'll also be giving the content on www.thelandofcan.com a Back-to-School focus so you can empower your children with the tools needed to have an extraordinary 2018-2019 school year.  Over the next few months on our site, I'm going to show you how to apply the principles of CAN to navigating a food allergy. I want parents to learn the words first (It's like a vocab list just for you) and then pass the words onto their children.  By deliberately applying the principles of a CAN mindset to navigating their food allergies in school, students with food allergies will reach their potential academically, socially, emotionally and, ultimately, personally. 

Tomorrow I introduce word one — Control. It's a Land of Can word that ALL kids, not just those with allergies, should know. 

I wholeheartedly embrace this Back-to-School Food Allergy CANpaign. I hope you embrace it, too! Buy a book for a school. Share our CAN posts on social media. Learn and embrace the CAN content for your own children. 

I'm a 20 year old college student (I turn 21 next Sunday!), but I am serious about passing along to others what has helped transform my life from a kid who only saw M&Ms to a young adult who only sees possibilities! 

 

*In hindsight, I wish the fifth grader had been eating M&Ms instead of a Twinkie. It would have been better for the story. 

 

 

JJ Vulopas is a senior at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. An advocate for young people, JJ has lived with food allergies his entire life. He is the author of the children's book, Land of Not. You can read his daily blog at www.thelandofcan.com and follow him @thelandofcan on Twitter and Instagram.