In July, 2008, the Hom family traveled to a Mexican resort to celebrate their son BJ’s high school graduation and 18th birthday. After the long flight, they were hungry, and headed to a buffet at the resort where they were staying. Soon afterwards, BJ complained that he had a sore throat. While on his way to the room so he could get some rest, he turned pale and began gasping for air.

After he collapsed in the lobby, hotel staff and paramedics tried to save him, but his throat had swollen shut, and BJ died less than three hours after arriving in Cabo. His parents, Brian and Kathy, initially thought that his death was caused by choking, possibly on a dough drop. Later, they learned that BJ had died after consuming peanuts, found finely-ground in chocolate mousse.

BJ had known he was allergic to peanuts, but had only ever experienced mild reactions. As a result, he did not carry an epinephrine auto-injector, recommended for anyone with a serious food allergy.

Since the day his son died, Brian Hom has channeled his grief into a mission to educate people about the dangers of food allergies. “My wife and I were devastated. How could this happen?” he pondered when speaking with San Jose’sMercury News.He wants people to know that mild food allergies can develop into life-threatening anaphylaxis at any time. “I’ve been on a campaign to basically figure out a cure or raise awareness so other families don’t have to lose a child this way,” says Brian. He’ll talk to parents, kids, travelers, chefs – anyone who will listen.

This weekend, the first BJ Hom Memorial 5K Run and Walk will be held in San Jose. “Brian’s really taken this terrible loss and tried to make something positive come out of it by spreading the word,” says Maria Acebal, CEO of the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), a sponsor of the event.

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