12-year-old Eric Wittig has severe allergies to peanuts and is running in the Sun Run for food allergy research and treatment

If you’re allergic, you can never assume you’re safe.

Twelve-year-old Eric Wittig is doing his second Vancouver Sun Run on April 14 to raise awareness and money for allergies research.

He has severe allergies to peanuts, cashews, pistachios and a legume called lupin, which shares a protein with peanuts. 

“I found out by accident. Lupin was mixed into my pancakes and it made me very sick,” Eric said.

He is part of Team Allergy, a youth team that caught the eye of John Smythe, a 29-year-old Vancouver native who plays midfield for the men’s national field-hockey team.

Smythe and his teammates will join Team Allergy at the start (and finish) line on race day.

“Playing field hockey in Canada is, what some might say, a niche sport, one which probably wouldn’t be able to be played at the highest level without the support of the community,” Smythe said from Malaysia, where the team is competing at the moment. “Therefore, it’s not uncommon on the national team to try to get involved with the community as much as possible.”

That includes coaching. And that’s how Smythe met Eric’s parents at York House, where their daughter attends school. When they told him about Team Allergy, Smythe — who has Crohn’s Disease — immediately thought of his teammate Taylor Curran, a veteran midfielder from North Vancouver who has a peanut allergy.

“We often joke around on tour that we can’t eat peanut butter, but I’m also aware of the planning and fear of uncertainty that comes with travelling to different countries. This can be harrowing,” Smythe said.

“Ultimately, as soon as we heard about Team Allergy, the national team boys wanted to join the fundraising initiative and have fun at the same time. Running in the Sun Run for Team Allergy will mean the world to us to give back to the community that has already helped us so much.”

posted Thursday April 4th