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Trick or Treat

by Beth A. Block


Trick or treat; give me something good to eat! Many fall celebrations revolve around food. That’s not surprising because food has brought human beings together since the beginning of our history. Many studies have shown that food fosters relationships between people and helps build communities.

Halloween, in particular, is all about sweets. In our martial arts studios, we offer parents a safe alternative to taking their children from house to house trick-or-treating. Our celebrations usually include games, prizes and candy — which means they’re guaranteed to keep young students happy.

Thanksgiving follows on the heels of Halloween. What do you visualize when you think of Thanksgiving? Turkey, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie and other favorite foods, most likely. Of course, the other thing that comes to mind is family.

Celebrations offer you a chance to strengthen the family and community bonds that are present in your martial arts studio. It sounds straightforward enough, but know that an ill-conceived holiday plan can backfire and become the kick you never saw coming. Consider the following incidents:

Last year, a martial arts studio held a Halloween party that included games, candy and fun activities for the students and their families. In addition to the treats that were given out, parents brought potluck dishes to share.

Unfortunately, one student had a nut allergy, and no one at the studio knew. Her condition was so serious that she would experience anaphylactic shock whenever she ate a peanut, cashew or walnut.

During the party, the girl’s parents got distracted while talking to other parents. On the table sat some banana nut bread. It looked like any other sweet loaf, and there was no label on the pan to indicates its contents. The girl ate a slice of the bread and went into anaphylaxis. Fortunately, her mother and father kept an EPI pen in the car. Nevertheless, she was rushed to the emergency room in an ambulance.

The good news: The girl was treated and released later that evening. She recovered completely and is fine today.

The bad news: The parents’ health-insurance company sued the studio to recover the cost of the girl’s medical care in the ambulance and the hospital. Because the studio had provided food that didn’t have a label that contained information about allergens, the owner was held liable.

Here’s another cautionary tale: In 2017, a studio hosted a potluck celebration the weekend before Thanksgiving. One family had volunteered to bring a turkey. What they didn’t volunteer was the fact that this turkey had been in their freezer since the 2016 holidays. During this time, the power had gone out for three days. They thought the turkey was still fine.

After the party, 10 people got food poisoning. Two of them were children, and one was a grandparent. All three ended up in the hospital, where they were treated for dehydration.

Again, the health-insurance companies (including Medicare for the grandparent) argued that the studio was responsible because it had organized the potluck and didn’t provide a disclaimer saying it had no control over food quality.

A crucial lesson to be learned from these incidents is that health-insurance companies can and will try to hold you responsible for what happens in your studio if they deem you negligent. Every time I have an injury that sends me to the doctor, I get a call or letter from my health insurer. The sender pretends to want to know if I’m OK, but what the company really wants to know is if they can stick someone else with my medical bill.

The sense of family and community that you build when you organize holiday celebrations is extremely beneficial. Just be sure to offer those benefits to your students while keeping the responsibility off yourself. Go to your local grocery story deli or bakery and procure refreshments there. Carefully label all food items. Use an invitation that includes a phrase like “If you or your children have food allergies, please verify the ingredients in the dish before eating it.”

By doing that, you’ll be better able to enjoy the holiday season while strengthening the bond between your studio and your students and their families in the safest way possible.


To contact Beth A. Block, send an email to [email protected] or call (800) 225-0863.


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