April 29, 2010
Just by using my computer mouse, my imagination, and my love of singing, I have independently created and designed www.EZgreetings.org, a charitable website that has raised over $3,000 so far for vital food allergy research.

EZgreetings sells 100 cheerful singing grams for all occasions—from birthdays to anniversaries to holidays and more. A singing gram is a singing greeting via email that I sing and record myself. Each $5 gram represents a donation to food allergy research in the recipient’s honor!

Anaphylactic food allergies plague 12 million Americans, including 3 million children and teens like myself. For people with anaphylactic allergies, an infinitesimal bite of the wrong food can be fatal.

I struggle with anaphylaxis to peanuts, tree nuts, sesame seeds, legumes, berries, and more, and I did not want to feel like a victim of my condition. Instead, I wanted to be part of the solution, and that is why I began my community service project, EZgreetings.

Living with food allergies means always carrying an EpiPen, a life-saving injection device for emergency situations. Living with food allergies means that ingredient lists are your best friends, as the only way to prevent anaphylaxis currently is strict avoidance. Living with food allergies means that each trip to a restaurant carries the risk of an emergency room visit. Living with food allergies means constant fear that supposedly safe foods have been cross-contaminated by contact with dangerous foods.

Luckily, capable doctors are working tirelessly to defeat food allergies, and my goal is to work as hard as possible to support this research. I have chosen to donate all the funds that EZgreetings raises to Dr. Robert Wood’s Oral and Sublingual Immunotherapy for Peanut Allergy Study. Recently, I was invited to visit this nationally prominent food allergy researcher’s lab at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in Baltimore. During my visit, I had the exciting opportunity to learn more about this promising study to fight peanut allergies.

The process of creating EZgreetings was so rewarding. I greatly enjoy volunteer work, so it was truly a labor of love when in March of 2008, I embarked on several months of work creating the website and then recording the singing grams and promoting EZgreetings.

To design the website, I started out by thinking of one hundred possible occasions, sketching out on paper what I wanted the website to look like, and then reading a website design book to teach myself how to make my vision come true. I wanted the site to look professional and cheerful! To record the individual singing grams for each occasion, I put on my headset and sang away with an instrumental recording I obtained to the rights for.

After the designing and recording phases of my project, the main job – which never ends – is publicity. I have spent countless hours publicizing EZgreetings in both standard ways like emails, flyers in mailboxes, newsletters, and bazaars and in some more creative ways.

One unique way that I have publicized www.EZgreetings.org is by singing the National Anthem or “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” at professional baseball parks! It was a thrill to sing at several minor league ballparks across the United States. After singing on behalf of EZgreetings, I passed out flyers to people at the game to promote my website.

It has been humbling to read what people are saying about my community service project. One customer named Debbee from California wrote, “This is . . . Emily Z's website. You gotta check it out. . . . This is the most amazing thing I've ever seen a young girl do. Please use this to help her and others with serious food allergies. I'm now going to send singing grams from her website to my family and friends. It costs $5.00 for a paper card these days and you have to pay the darn gas price as well. . . . I'm so proud to be able to send you a card through her. . . ."

Another customer, a man named Dennis from Nevada who attended a baseball game I sang at said, “The singing gram was performed by a student named Emily Z. I met her at a minor league baseball game in Reno where she sang the national anthem and then went through the crowd... to introduce herself and hand out flyers…The proceeds are donated to food allergy research. (Emily has food allergies). I was impressed with her singing and her character as well. I knew this would be a good gift for you."

EZgreetings stemmed from my love of singing, doing community service, and graphic designing. My project has grown into a successful avenue to raise funds for a very worthwhile cause. While my project has included some challenges along the way, such as technical issues that have caused me to spend many hours on the phone with my Internet server company, the satisfaction of working hard for an important cause makes every minute worth it.

For teens who want to help, an amazing contribution to the project would be to send a Facebook message to all of their online friends telling them about the website and urging them to use it. It’s easy to send a singing gram and it brightens the recipient’s day, all while helping a great cause!

Please visit www.EZgreetings.org today to send singing grams and join the fight against food allergies!

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