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Andrea Mariano: inspiring action

Andrea Mariano (1997-2015)

Andrea was a bright and caring Ontario university student who suffered a fatal anaphylactic reaction on campus in September 2015, just weeks into her first year. Sadly, Andrea died after consuming a beverage that may have been cross-contaminated with peanut or milk, both of which she was allergic to.

The loss of Andrea was felt by her family, relatives, friends, and many others, including post-secondary students and staff from across the country. It also highlighted the need to take a closer look at the management of food allergies and anaphylaxis in campus settings.

After two years of collaboration with over 75 stakeholders, we have released a new guide on managing food allergy in post-secondary settings. Andrea is the inspiration behind this initiative and the guide is dedicated to her memory.

With this guide, we are equipping post-secondary institutions across Canada with the vital information they need to take steps to review and reassess policies and procedures to help support students with potentially life-threatening allergies.

My inspiration to take action, a dedication by Kristina Mariano

The beauty of a sister’s bond is the complete reliance it has on love to guard the relationship. A love that is kind, true, and merciful. The love that I shared with my sister is indescribable. Andrea and I shared a lot with one another considering our closeness in age, she was my best friend. We did everything together, but those moments where it was just the two of us talking and sharing our ideas and feelings, are the moments that I cherish the most. The best part of having my sister around was being able to come home to her after a stressful day. She possessed a spirit with the ability to light up darkness. Her friends describe her as selfless, understanding, and humorous.

Although she lived for only 18 years, she loved unconditionally and lived life to the fullest. The way Andrea lived inspires me to live every single moment with passion. She taught me the importance of using my time here on Earth to remember the forgotten, comfort the suffering, and empathize with the misunderstood. In this lesson is where I found the drive to advocate for those living with food allergies. It has become my duty to spread awareness, to educate others, and inspire them to support this community. This is why I am involved in this post-secondary initiative with Food Allergy Canada. In Andrea’s memory, this guide will serve as a part of her legacy and will help to influence change and make a great impact for students across campuses throughout Canada.

A friend once said to me:

“Close your eyes. Picture yourself away from the chaos and cacophony of this busy world and out on the side of a road by a field in the country. Night has fallen and it’s pitch black all around. In the silence and stillness, you look up and amidst the vast darkness, like priceless diadems scattered across the sky, are countless stars. Little bright lights that aren’t overcome by the night, but in fact use the darkness to shine even brighter. Along the road of life, certain people are those stars. Such are those who fight against the night, and the darker it becomes, the more resilient do they shine. Such are your heroes. Such are your role models. Such was your sister – Andrea Mariano.”

These words truly emulate the inspiration for a drive towards making a big impact, in helping students with food allergies live life with confidence and brightness.