Editor's Note: Kathy Martini is being featured Thursday as Huffington Post's Greatest Person of the Day. The series features stories of people across the nation who are making a difference in their community. Congratulations, Kathy!
Four years ago during a Christmas party, Kathy Martini’s 2-year-old daughter Caroline snuck a peanut butter cookie at the kids’ table.
One bite of the forbidden treat meant trouble.
Caroline started coughing and vomiting, and developed hives and a drop in blood pressure.
“When I lifted up the napkin and saw a peanut butter cookie I thought, ‘Oh no!’” said Martini, who had heard not to give peanut butter to children until age 3.
Luckily, Martini recognized Caroline’s symptoms as an allergic reaction, partly because her older daughter Katelyn’s friend has a peanut butter allergy and partly just mother’s instinct. She gave Caroline some Benadryl and paged her pediatrician.
“I stared at her the whole night while she was asleep,” she said. “After the first response a couple hours later you can react again.”
Luckily, Caroline was fine. Nonetheless, Martini bought an epinephrine injection for life-threatening allergic reactions, and removed all peanut butter products from their home.
Caroline also is allergic to tree nuts and eggs.
“At that point on I thought, 'How am I going to teach her to be safe?’”
Not finding the teaching tools she needed, Martini decided to create them herself.
She formed KatieCare Productions LLC, named after daughters Katelyn, 10, and Caroline, now 6, and produced three videos designed to teach kids how to be safe from food allergies. And she plans to donate net profits to research to finding a cure for food allergies.
Martini, who moved to Plainfield from Orland Park in 1997, recruited alumni friends from Lewis University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in communications, and from , including Beth Kingsbury-Puscas, who teaches art and directs the school plays.
“She takes 100 children and puts on an incredible show,” Martini said of Kingsbury-Puscas, who has a rare and life-threatening allergy to citrus.
With Martini as president and Kingsbury-Puscas as director, the KatieCare Productions team also includes Martini’s husband Rob as well as a Web designer, photographer, editor, graphic designer, music producer, videographer and children.
Through song and dance, the Safe Food Friends – Katelyn and other current students or graduates of St. Mary Immaculate Parish School – teach kids about allergic foods, safe and unsafe snacks and the importance of reading labels. Scenes were filmed in the Plainfield area.
The videos, My Peanut Allergy Video with My Safe Food Friends, My Milk Allergy Video with My Safe Food Friends and My Egg Allergy Video with My Safe Food Friends, are recommended for ages 2 to 7. Each DVD/CD combo sells for $19.99 at www.KatieCareProductions.com.
To kick off 2012, Martini partnered with momshelpingschools.com to market the videos. The site gives 40 percent of purchases to a school or education foundation.
Martini has donated videos to St. Mary’s to be shown in every classroom.
“Teachers want to know what to do to keep their students safe and St. Mary’s has been incredibly proactive,” she said. “My goal is to educate at home and secondly to educate at schools. My entire motivation is to fund research to find a cure.”