Tag Archives: Walt Disney World

Conference Connection – Sarah Norris and Justin Cunningham

The theme of the first year of the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference was “Connecting” and we are happy to report many of you did just that!  If you are considering attending this year and want to know if it is a worthwhile event, don’t just take our word for it.  This year’s conference theme is “Celebrating Others” so we wanted to celebrate and spotlight a few attendees that  credit the event with some exciting opportunities and experiences.  

We started with the story of Kate Hufnagel connecting with David Lurie of SunCups.  Now we are sharing Justin Cunningham of the iPhone app YoDish (he and his wife Emily are both food allergy advocates!  Emily writes at Allergen Menu Mom) and Sarah Norris of Gluten Free & Dairy Free Walt Disney World.  The post below is a Q&A between Homa Woodrum, Co-Founder of the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference, and Justin & Sarah.  You can also check out Sarah’s Q&A post from last year prior to the event!

Justin Cunningham, founder of the YoDish mobile app (2013 FABlogCon sponsor), and Sarah Norris, owner of Gluten Free & Dairy Free at WDW, connected about a possible collaboration online but it wasn’t until the 2013 Food Allergy Bloggers Conference that the two were able to make it happen.

Homa:  Sarah and Justin – Thanks for offering your perspective about FABlogCon and how it provided you the opportunity to kick off your collaboration, especially for those who haven’t been before.  What were you thinking as you made your decision to attend last year?

Justin:  When I look in the rear view mirror at myself, debating whether or not to attend the first Food Allergy Bloggers Conference, I just laugh.  I laugh because there really wasn’t anything to think about – it was a no brainer.

Justin Cunningham

Justin Cunningham

Nonetheless, I was intimidated because I was a complete newbie to the food allergy blogosphere (in fact, I hadn’t written a blog yet!), and it didn’t help knowing that I would be in the incredibly small male minority.  Secondly, it seemed like a big expense at the time given that I wasn’t sure how connected I would be to the community once I got there.

Fortunately, my insecurity was put to rest shortly after signing up.  The first thing I did after registering was to post that I was attending in the Comments section of the FABlogCon “Who’s Coming” page.

I had wanted to add myself to the list for a long time but couldn’t since I hadn’t committed.  For some reason, I was a little nervous about putting it out there.  I don’t know what I thought was going to happen.  I guess I expected to hear crickets, and then to hear people asking “who is that guy?”, but that is exactly when the group started to surprise me.  Not long after I commented that I would be there, Caroline Moassessi of the blog, Grateful Foodie, replied with, “Just a warning Justin, you’re going to fall in love with this group!”  And that was true, I did.  From that point on, I felt completely welcome, and I was very excited to meet everyone.

Sarah:  Like Justin, I was also debating on whether to attend the conference originally, but fate intervened for me. On a whim, I entered a contest on the Amazing & Atopic blog – Selena  Bluntzer was giving away a free registration to FABlogCon – and one day I got an email from her saying that I had won. Well, how could I say no to an amazing opportunity combined with the amazing generosity of a fellow blogger? Immediately, I was blown away by the support and welcoming nature of this group that I would soon be meeting.

Homa:  It’s a great group of people.  We’re so excited to get everyone back together again for FABlogCon2014 so that others can feel as welcomed as you two were!

Justin: Right, exactly!  As to networking, the conference far exceeded my expectations.  The great thing about FABlogCon is right from-the-start everyone is walking together on common ground with a common purpose.  Extensive work by Simon Sinek and others has established this truism: when you work with people who believe what you believe, the stage is set for innovation and extraordinary achievement.  FABlogCon is the perfect setting for us to come together to take the food allergy community another step forward.

Beyond the common purpose which brings us all together, FABlogCon’s format drives interaction among attendees, making it easy to make new friends.

Sarah:  I couldn’t have said it better myself, Justin. There is something so fantastic about a community that works together on so many levels. And of course, FABlogCon’s format really did bring us all together. By the end of this conference, I came back with so many new friendships and plans to embark on new partnerships!

Homa:  That’s why Jenny started it!  How did FABlogCon enable you to launch your collaboration?

Justin: I had reached out to Sarah via email months before the conference because I knew based on her blog that we shared a passion for helping people safely expand their horizons when it comes to dining out.  I was inspired by Sarah’s blog – an incredible collection of hundreds of gluten free, dairy free restaurant reviews at Walt Disney World – and I was looking for feedback on an early version of the app.  Later, we developed capabilities within YoDish to help bloggers extend the reach of their content to app users looking for restaurant dishes nearby.  So, I reached out again to propose we collaborate.

Well, we were both busy – like we all are – and we weren’t personally invested in making progress because we didn’t know each other.  Since we were both attending FABlogCon, we agreed to connect there to talk it through.

When we met face-to-face at FABlogCon, everything fell into place.  You just can’t establish the same rapport online as you can when meeting face-to-face.

Tess Masters, Joel Warady, and Annalies Zijderveld Speak at FABlogCon 2013.  Image Courtesy of Colette Martin.

Tess Masters, Joel Warady, and Annalies Zijderveld Speak at FABlogCon 2013. Image Courtesy of Colette Martin.

Moreover, in the first panel, Joel Warady of Enjoy Life Foods mentioned Sarah as an example of a blogger who is professional and on top of her game.  That immediately confirmed for me that working with Sarah would be productive and enjoyable.  I might have stumbled across a tweet by Joel saying the same thing, but hearing it in that setting had a much stronger impact.

When we announced that Sarah’s dish reviews were available in the app, people reacted so positively and many joined the movement.  Today, Orlando is the most active community on YoDish.

It has been a great pleasure to work with Sarah.  It is a privilege to interact with someone who demonstrates such consistent professionalism and possesses such a strong focus on quality.

Sarah:  When Justin initially reached out to me, I was intrigued by his work developing YoDish and the possibilities that he had proposed about the project. But, like he said, we were both busy and investing in making progress on a collaboration wasn’t really progressing along without that personal connection. It’s so true that when we met at FABlogCon, things really did fall into place.

Sarah Norris

Sarah Norris

The first thing that struck me when I met Justin was that we shared common goals, passions, and a desire to bring continued awareness to the community. Hearing about his family’s food allergy story really connected us in a much more personal way than any email or business call would. His strong drive to create something unique and impactful on the community was evident immediately. And his approach was so professional and thoughtful. Not only did we share common goals and experiences but we easily began to think of ways we could work together to make the Orlando area reviews a robust resource for local residents and visitors. There was synergy going on, and I think we both knew pretty early on that this collaboration would be a great one.

In this day in age, we’re always working collaboratively, especially in a virtual environment. And in this kind of environment, you look to work with people who you can trust and feel confident in collaborating with, and for me this completely describes my partnership with Justin and the YoDish brand. What has and continues to impress me about working with Justin is his continued dedication to the community and the quality of work that he provides. He has made working on this project such a pleasure, and I look forward to continuing our collaboration serving the food allergy community for years to come!

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YoDish, a free iPhone app, enables people with gluten intolerance and food allergies as well as vegetarians and vegans to share their restaurant dining experiences while on-the-go. YoDish is socially driven and leverages FourSquare’s global locations database to provide users an instant list of the restaurants near their current location. Users can post their dish reviews in the app as well as to Facebook, Twitter, and FourSquare. Justin and Emily Cunningham, whose daughter has been diagnosed with severe allergies to dairy, eggs, peanuts, and tree nuts, understand the challenges involved in eating out with dietary restrictions. Learn more about and download YoDish at http://bit.ly/YoDish.

Gluten Free & Dairy Free at WDW was founded by Sarah Norris in 2009 and is the top source for gluten free and dairy free dining information at the Walt Disney World Resort. Gluten Free & Dairy Free at WDW contains reviews, tips, tricks and trip planning resources to assist those visiting Disney with a special diet. In addition to resources found on the Gluten Free & Dairy Free at WDW site, those interested in special diets at Walt Disney World can also find on-the-go information through the site’s podcast, found on iTunes.

Thank you so much Sarah and Justin!  Don’t forget to register today (be sure to check out our new schedule system that lets you build your own schedule of events and panels to attend) and we’ll see you in September!  

Interested in sponsorship?  E-mail us at jenny@fablogcon.com or homa@fablogcon.com.  If you have a connection you’d like us to feature, feel free to e-mail us about it as well.

#FABlogCon Review Round-up

We have been reading everyone’s wonderful reviews and posts from the #FABlogCon, and enjoying seeing your photos! If you don’t see yours listed please email us or leave it in the comments and we will get yours added too! This event would not have been possible nor been as wonderful without each and every one of you who came and participated! Once again we are humbled and grateful for all your support. Thank you! ~ Jenny & Homa
 
Joel Warady of Enjoy Life Foods: “You are truly the best community of passionate consumers with which any company could ever hope to align itself.”
 
FARE:  “This remarkable group proved that although our community is spread across the country and diverse in many ways, we are all united by a common cause: to make the world a safer and better place for those living with food allergies.” 
 
Elyse Hahne of Live Learn Everyday Life: “For the first Food Allergy Bloggers Conference, the expectation was set extremely high. Not only is this a must attend event, it supports, encourages, and motivates you to keep at it. It was a wonderful conference that has left me motivated and willing to do more in the food allergy community.”
 
Get Allergy Wise: “The conference was as rich with information as it was with passionate and creative attendees.”
 
Michelle Palin, My Gluten Free Kitchen:  “It was so fun to just get away for the weekend and join other gluten-free or allergy bloggers and companies.”
 
Sunbutter: “The one big thing we learned at FABlogCon? You’re not alone.”
 
Colette Martin, of Learning to Eat Allergen-Free blog, wrote “We are all united by the desire to drive awareness, acceptance, and accommodation of severe food restrictions.”
 
Rachel Hayden, Mom versus Food Allergy [wrote my personal favorite analogy- must read!] : “FABlogcon attendees, as we go back into our communities think of yourselves as part of a quilt that when stitched together across the world can make a difference by educating, informing, and advocating on behalf of food allergic individuals everywhere.”
 
Sarah Norris, of Gluten Free Dairy Free at Walt Disney World :”Perhaps my most favorite part of the conference was meeting other people like me. People who have a special diet because of allergies, intolerances, or other health reasons–each person was so amazing.”
 
Amy Tracy, Adventures of an Allergic Foodie: “How do you feed a conference full of food allergic people?”
 
Kim Pebley, The Cheeky Celiac, said, “these ladies not only united food allergy bloggers of every kind but provided them a chance to learn, socialize and truly appreciate each other.”
 
Henry Ehrlich of Asthma, Allergies, Children writes: “If nothing else, the conference was a reminder that Facebook is no substitute for Face-to-Face.”
 
Jessica Martin, Food Allergy Sleuth, [also wrote a lovely analogy!]: “There is something powerful about meeting others like you and then combining forces toward common goals.”
 
Keeley McGuire, Keeley McGuire blog, detailed the conference and writes: “We all have different stories, different experiences, different allergies… but one thing is constant: We all face challenges with food and advocating our, or our children’s, rights each and every day.”
 
Caroline Moassessi of Grateful Foodie wrote “The only way I can explain the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference (FABLOGCON) is to say it was like being in a grown up Disneyland.” “Words to describe this event: inspiring, motivating, somber, intellectual, practical, thrilling and exhausting.”  
She also writes about the SWAG here.
 
Erica Dermer, Celiac and the Beast, “we ALL eat differently, and we all have to be so careful in our lives with food. We all have a very unique relationship with food that others outside the community don’t really understand.”
Do NOT miss her FABulous video clips on YouTube! 🙂 
 
Andy Weissman, wrote on Nov 7, 2013 “Liberate, Animate, Cooperate, Instigate” with a nod to #FABlogCon
 
Elizabeth DiBurro of EBL Food Allergies said: “If I had to pick one thing that was my favorite about attending #FABlogCon (which is how it is known on Twitter), it would be the ability to meet and reunite with so many like-minded individuals who all share the same passion.”
 
Donna DeCosta of Food Allergy Mom Doc said: “From the venue to the overstuffed swag bags ( yes plural), to the exceptional food prepared by Chef Keith Norman (who knew gluten free could be so delish? ), to the exceptional speakers to the author signing reception, to the amazing door prizes…it was a lovely event.”
 
Wendy Lazor, Allergy Free Kitchens said: “my eyes were opened to see the power inherent in that gathering.  Individually, we are a story.  Collectively, we can move mountains.”
 
Jo-Ann Rogan of Punky Mama, said: “I hope the word spreads and people who are home and feeling lost and alone while managing food allergies and reach out to the internet get to attend this conference.”
 
Pam Jordan of I’m a Celiac said:  “These events are so amazing due to the people.  It is such a gift to be in a room filled with 150 other people who get it!”   
Also check out her photo slide show, here.
 
Brynn Hadler Allergy Bytes said “Walking in to the Food Allergy Blogger’s Conference was like coming home to a family I had never met, but to whom I clearly belonged.”
 
Elizabeth Goldenberg Onespot Allergy said “I was privileged to “know” these friends before in an online way, and I’m graced to know them now in a real world way. We truly support each other, and I look forward to meeting with my friends again at the Food Allergy Blogger Conference next year.”
 
Selena Bluntzer Amazing & Atopic says: “”This community has been building and growing over the years, and Jenny and Homa “built” a city in which our virtual community was able to live for a few days. Sometimes we might feel like The Sims, interacting online, but we’re obviously real people and this gave us a 3D space to inhabit. These industrious city planners found a location with safe food (no easy task!), entertainment, education, and accommodations.”
 
Kelly Kurzhal of Raising Jack with Celiac said: “Our common bond of raising awareness, sharing recipes and resources for the gluten-free and food allergy community has truly brought us together and we encourage one another, swap recipes and make each other laugh along the way.”
 
Jenny Sprague, Multiple Food Allergy Help said: “The best part has been the connections that were forged. I see relationships on social media now that are there because of this event, friendships that were just formed, or made stronger.  All these links and connections weaving together, creating a stronger, more unified food allergy community.”
 
Cheryl Viirand, Freedible says: “we custom eaters are indeed a tribe.  A tribe defined not by the particulars of our individual eating requirements and restrictions, not by their severity or even by the stakes they put on the table for ourselves and our kids. No, what defines our tribe is that we are problem solvers. We are a tribe of future-creators who are not satisfied to wait in the hopes that a safer, more inclusive future will create itself.”
 
Senator Debbie Smith, Nevada, addressing audience opening night – Part 1; Part 2
 
Dr Eric Edwards, Co-inventor of Auvi-Q addressing audience at opening night – Part 1; Part 2 
 

Sarah Norris Q & A

We will be introducing you to the speakers and attendees of the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference by sharing their responses to a few questions. We have asked them to choose to answer 3-5 of these questions:

1. Who do you look forward to seeing/meeting most at FABC and why?
2. Which of your blog posts are you most proud of and why?
3. Which panel topic do you look forward to hearing most and why?
4. What is the best thing about food allergies?
5. What motivated you to start blogging about food allergies?
6. What is the best thing about the online food allergy community?
7. What other blogger would you most like to meet and why?
8. What other blogger has inspired you?
9. What is one of your favorite posts written by another blogger and why?
10. If you didn’t have or deal with food allergies, what would be your 3 favorite foods to eat/try?

 

Sarah Norris GFDFWDWSarah Norris is the author of the Gluten Free & Dairy Free at WDW Blog. She chronicles her gluten free and dairy free dining experiences at Walt Disney World and provides reviews, tips, and tricks for visitors to the resort with special diets. As a self-proclaimed Disney junkie, she has been vacationing at the Walt Disney World Resort since she was 2 ½ years old. In 2009, she was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease and food intolerances. She created the Gluten Free & Dairy Free at WDW Blog around the first time she went to Walt Disney World with dietary restrictions in an effort to provide helpful information to fellow Disney travelers. You can find her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gfdfwdw & Twitter: https://twitter.com/gfdf_wdw

1. Who do you look forward to seeing/meeting most at FABC and why?

Everyone, really. I’ve connected with a lot of folks already through social media, so it will be terrific to meet everyone in person. I feel like I “know” lots of you already!

2. Which of your blog posts are you most proud of and why?

Probably the post(s) related to the Food Allergy events that I host at the Walt Disney World Resort. Hosting events where food is free of the top common allergens and providing those unique experiences for families and specifically children is extremely important to me!

3. Which panel topic do you look forward to hearing most and why?

Getting Heard ~ How to be an effective advocate. I think we can all continue to work on being an effective advocate. I’m always striving to improve and reach out to the allergy community in a meaningful way.

4. What is the best thing about food allergies?

The community! Everyone is so welcoming and encouraging to each other. I came into the special diets community feeling like I was alone and now have made so many wonderful connections because of it. There is something truly special about this community, and I can’t imagine my life now without it.

5. What motivated you to start blogging about food allergies?

I started my blog around the time I first went to Disney World with dietary restrictions 4 years ago. I had been visiting the theme parks for many years and knew I loved the food there but felt totally blindsided when I went to Disney with special diets the first time. I found lots of great information on blogs and websites about gluten free diets at Disney but not as many for folks with multiple dietary needs. I really wanted to share my experiences to other people out there just like me and especially to families traveling to Disney World.