MAIN keeps children safe
Protection from dangerous allergies
By: Erin Madden
Winnipeg Free Press
April 6, 2009
For 13 years now Nancy Boni has been reaching out to parents, who, like herself, are forced to deal with their childrens' life-threatening allergies.
Her daughter Allison Boni was just a year old when she was diagnosed with allergies severe enough to cause an anaphylactic reaction, with at least 10 different foods, including peanuts, fish, and bananas the cause. After the diagnosis, Boni set out to educate herself about the threats against her daughter and in doing so co-founded the Manitoba Anaphylaxis Information Network (MAIN).
A sub-group of the Allergy Asthma Information Association (a national organization), MAIN is run out of Boni's North Kildonan home and helps to provide resources and support to parents living with the challenges of keeping their children safe.
Responding to hundreds of inquiries each year she also sends out information packages, holds support group meetings and does over the phone counselling. Additionally, through MAIN, Boni spent years lobbying the Manitoba government, her hard work finally paying off this past fall when a new bill was passed which stipulates that all school divisions must have anaphylaxis policies.
"I think the biggest thing was always having a need to feel comfortable with having my daughter go out places that she went," said Boni, explaining that Allison was and continues to be very active. "I'm the type of person that my way of dealing with it is that you do everything that you possibly can, and then you relax and you enjoy your life. I never wanted to hold her back from doing the things she enjoyed doing."
That attitude that helped Allison flourish. Now 20, Allison Boni is an education student at the University of Winnipeg and works part time as a lifeguard at two Winnipeg pools.
While she no longer needs her mother to look out for her, Allison Boni said she is grateful that her mother invested so much into keeping her safe, allowing her to today live life as a normal young woman.
"My mom got involved and instead of having to send me off to the office to eat by myself every lunch, she made it safe for me to have lunch with my friends and not have to worry all the time," she said.
"What she taught me when I was young has helped me grow up. I'm 20 now, I'm going to restaurants with friends, and now I have to be the one to look and keep myself safe. It's a big deal that my mom has been this involved."
Through her experiences with Allison, Nancy Boni now helps other parents. Shelley Ross, the mother of two young children with allergies, contacted Boni after her daughter was first diagnosed with a peanut allergy and found comfort and strength in what Boni had to say.
"I was just completely overwhelmed and scared about her safety and I knew nothing about allergies," said Ross, who now volunteers with MAIN helping to plan support group meetings. "I started researching a bit and came across Nancy, and I was so thankful that there was someone I could talk to who understood my concerns and that it was a life-threatening issue, not just a reaction of some sort. It kind of normalized it for me and it kind of empowered me to just face it head on and say 'we can do this — we can keep her safe.'"
The next MAIN support group meeting will take place on Tuesday, April 28 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Parents are invited to attend to discuss strategies and share ideas in keeping their children safe. The meeting will take place at Gray Academy (Room 110). Anyone interested is invited to show up (no registration is necessary), entering the main doors of the Asper Jewish Community Campus located at 123 Doncaster St. For more information about MAIN, please contact or call Nancy Boni at 654-2676.
If you know a special volunteer who strives to make their community a better place to live, please contact Erin Madden at
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