The Debbs family of West Palm Beach, Florida suffered a painful loss over Thanksgiving weekend. Their 11-year-old son, Oakley Debbs, tragically died from complications due to a nut allergy.
In an interview with WPTV, Merrill Debbs said it all happened so fast. Her son, Oakley, went to the hospital last Wednesday. On Thanksgiving Day, he was on life support, and on Saturday, he was gone.
Merrill said Oakley was very cautious about what he ate. “He always checked the labels, he was always aware of nuts in any foods.” But during a family vacation in Vermont and Maine for Thanksgiving, Oakley accidentally ingested cake containing nuts.
“He was running through the house and there was a coffee cake that had been left out on the table. No one had put it away, it was a bit haphazard. The kids just grabbed that as something to eat. And Oakley grabbed it. And he ate it,” she said.
Oakley went into anaphylactic shock. “We resuscitated him three times in hopes we could bring him back. We used the Epi-pen three times and it did not work,” described Merrill. “By the time we got to the hospital, he was basically brain dead.” Oakley died in his father’s arms.
Just days after the tragedy, the Debbs family created the “Red Sneakers Foundation” in Oakley’s memory to raise awareness for the dangers of nut allergies.
Oakley loved to play soccer. Merrill shared that “In every sport that he ever played, his sneakers always had to be red.”
The family’s first step through the “Red Sneakers Foundation” is to ask people to wear red sneakers this week in memory of Oakley. There will be a benefit soccer tournament on Saturday, Dec. 10 Palm Beach Recreation Center. His family is encouraging kids of all ages to come out ready to play, wearing red sneakers.
Their goal is to one day have those red sneakers represent the dangers of nut allergies nationwide. The Debbs family hopes to create educational programs, research and public policy initiatives through the foundation.
“If we continue this advocacy of his red sneakers, that will keep his shining light alive, because he deserved it,” said Robert, Oakley’s father.
Click here to read more about the Red Sneaker Foundation.