Yesterday Katherine and I, along with Helen, Gramma, and twelve of our neighbors, went to an American Girl Fashion Show held as a fundraiser for the Ireland Cancer Center in Cleveland, OH. All of the girls wore dresses that matched their dolls' dresses--in color, at least. We don't have the cash to spring for "real" AG dresses for our girls. Lunch was served during the fashion show, and Katherine was provided with a dairy-free meal. The girls had a lovely time being together at such a fancy, grownupish event, and the moms and grandmas had fun, too.
Are you sensing a "But..." coming? Good for you!
When we received our reservation confirmation letter for our not inexpensive tickets (I know, I know--it's for charity!), the letter said, "Lunch of grilled breast of chicken and vegetables over pasta for adults and fingertip sandwiches and potato chips for children will be served. If there are any major allergies in your party that need accommodation, please contact us as soon as possible so that we may work with Executive Caterers in Landerhaven."
Wow! I thought, as I dialed the provided phone number. How great that they're thinking about this! I thought, as I left a message on voicemail. What the heck? I thought, as I waited a week for a phone call.
Then the call came from a volunteer. "We ask that you call the caterer directly so that there is no mix-up in the passing of information," she said.
"That's great! I really appreciate that! What is the caterer's number?"
"Oh, I don't have that. You'll have to look it up yourself."
"Ma'am, I live two hours away in another state. Could you please look it up and call me back?" "Well, I wouldn't know where to look."
"Fine. But you're going to need that information for other parents who might call."
Using my trusty friends, The Internets, I found the caterer's number and spoke to a woman there. We decided that it was easier to order Katherine a plain chicken breast, with sides of plain pasta and vegetables then to try to figure out safe breads and fillings for the finger sandwiches. I also requested juice in place of the milk the other girls would have. No dessert was mentioned in the menu, so I didn't think to ask about it. I told the caterer that the people holding the fundraiser didn't have the caterer's number to give out and that she might want to call them.
I packed a PB & J sandwich and dessert for K., just in case, and off we went. She was served a plate of chicken and pasta with a buttery-looking sauce identical to the adults, so I sent it back to the kitchen to make sure it was safe. It was made with olive oil, so yes. I also requested a bag of potato chips for her so she could be like her friends. No one had gotten the message about the juice, so I requested a glass, along with a fancy straw like the other girls had with their milk.
The dessert was chocolate mousse, so I just pulled out the cookies I brought for Katherine. I wish I had asked about sorbet or something on the phone, though. Or that the woman I spoke with had mentioned dessert.
In summary, Executive Caterers did provide safe food for my daughter, and the servers were very pleasant and helpful. The people planning the American Girl event need to get their act together, especially since they've been doing this event for a dozen years. Don't write about accommodating allergies in your letter if you don't even have the caterer's phone number! And while I am always thankful when people are accommodating, I also think that is is my daughter's right to have safe food, especially when we have paid a good bit of money and the event planners bring up the subject of food allergies first!
Sidebar complaints, RE: treatment of mothers with infants, centerpieces
One of my friends and I brought our babies along, a fact we stated very clearly on our registration forms. No additional information was sent to us, so we assumed it was fine. We brought small strollers for the babies, but upon arriving were told that there was no room in the ballroom for them. Yet many of the little girls had full-size umbrella strollers for their dolls that they were allowed to bring in. (Did I just go there? Oh yes I did.) So my friend and I held our babies while eating and feeding them. It was fine, but we were back in a corner where there was plenty of room, and why didn't someone contact us and explain what the situation would be beforehand?
The centerpieces were made of plastic wands with paper stars on top. The same kind of wands were used in the grand finale, which was made up of the models and some girls from the audience. Those girls all got to keep the wands, but we were told to leave the wands on our tables for the second show. Now, I could care less about this, but it bothered our girls, and you know the girls at the second show were going to be allowed to take those wands home. The sponsors couldn't shell out ten more dollars to get enough wands for both shows? Please.
Sigh. I know, I know--it's for charity!