Dragon's Fire Fueling Anaphylaxis Awareness
Toronto's Own Bruce Croxon
Many Canadians have come to know Torontonian Bruce Croxon as one of the dragons on Dragons’ Den, the hit Canadian reality show where aspiring entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to venture capitalists in the hopes of securing financing. Off camera, Croxon is a highly successful venture capitalist who defines his entrepreneurial philosophy as “serendipity mixed with smarts.”
In 1987, Croxon co-founded Lavalife, the internationally recognized online dating service. He also founded the West Coast Vida Spa chain and is a managing director/co-founder of Round 13 Capital, a firm dedicated to growing Canadian technology companies. With a strong interest in wellness and technology, his current ventures include Sprigg Software, Walkaway Canada and Round Assist.
It goes without saying—Croxon’s success as an entrepreneur is admirable and extensive. What many folks might not be aware of is his volunteer work and the much-needed societal impact he is making as the national spokesperson for Anaphylaxis Canada (AC)—a small, underfunded charity that is dealing with the rise in severe food allergies. Croxon’s experience with his children and their journey with food allergies and anaphylaxis have inspired him to help others who are going through similar challenges.
“Early on in my son’s life, we became aware he wasn’t reacting well to certain foods,” said Croxon. “He is anaphylactic. And the list became very long: eggs, fish, nuts, tree nuts, sesame. I know there are worse things to have; I tread lightly on that. Food is a pretty basic requirement; it’s a serious thing. We found Anaphylaxis Canada to be a helpful resource that essentially taught us how to manage.” This was the impetus for Croxon to become AC’s national spokesperson.
Croxon later found out his younger daughter was allergic to egg. “Having children with severe food allergies means we tend to avoid certain foods, dine out less and travel less, which can be a downside (to food allergies). You think you’re safe sometimes and you’re not.”
Food allergies are a growing public health issue in Canada. AC reports that about 1 in 25 people in Canada have a food allergy, with nearly 6% in children under the age of 3 (the highest incidence). Health Canada’s numbers are similar. Though more research is needed to determine the prevalence of food-related anaphylaxis, some studies on peanuts in children indicate a rate of about 2%. Avoiding allergenic foods is the only way to prevent allergic reactions. In 2005, the Ontario government passed Sabrina’s Law, requiring all publicly funded schools in the province to have an anaphylaxis action plan. The cause of food allergies is not completely understood, however, there are a few theories around chemicals we are surrounded by and found in our food supply, an overly sterile environment, and our compromised immune systems.
Croxon says there are many “upsides” to having food allergies, such as eating healthier, which can mean more homemade meals and less processed, nutrient-poor foods. “There are a ton of things you can eat. Labeling is getting better in Canada but we need to be vigilant and vocal with food manufacturers. Let’s face it—everyone has some kind of challenge. It makes us better people.”
“Anaphylaxis sounds like a scary thing, for example if you are supervising another child at your child’s playdate, but it is manageable. It is something to be taken seriously. Reactions can also be more severe the second time around. Be informed. Be cautious. Be aware. But don’t be scared or paranoid.”
There is still a stigma surrounding food allergies, particularly among children and teenagers. Croxon urges those affected and their caregivers to always carry their epi pen, and to feel confident about telling everyone around them about their epi pen and food allergies (friends, teachers, neighbours and so on). A medical bracelet should also be worn. We need to teach our children to feel comfortable talking about food allergies to help eradicate the stigma and perceived embarrassment linked to the topic.
Croxon helps AC achieve its main mandate, which is education and awareness. AC also helps to fund some research and he supports events that it hosts, including its annual golf tournament. He urges the public to support the organization through volunteering and charitable donations. With passion and determination in his voice, Croxon says, “Everyone should know there is an organization doing great work. There is a lot of research being done and I’m ever optimistic that food allergies and anaphylaxis are issues we can overcome.”
For more information about Anaphylaxis Canada, visit http://www.anaphylaxis.ca