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Soccer event marks official naming of Palm Beach field for Oakley Debbs


Oakley Debbs always wanted his own field.

The 11-year-old, who tragically died last year from anaphylactic shock related to a nut allergy, loved soccer and football. Almost exactly one year to the day after his death, his wish was officially granted.

The town and Friends of Recreation dedicated the Seaview Park athletic field at the Palm Beach Recreation Center to Oakley Saturday in front of family and friends and a couple hundred people at the Oakley Debbs Memorial Soccer Jamboree.

SHINY SHOTS: Red Sneakers for Oakley Soccer Jamboree

His mother, Merrill Debbs, a former Palm Beacher, said she experienced emotions from elation to sadness, to a moment of realization that her life is now dedicated to Red Shoes for Oakley — an organization she started to raise awareness about food allergies and stop other people from dying in the future.

“I would do anything to have my family complete and whole again, but, at the same time, I know Oakley is going to help others understand the severity of food allergies,” she said.

During the family’s Thanksgiving holiday in Kennebunkport, Maine, Oakley ingested a nut in a pound cake and had a severe reaction.

Last year, Celebration of Life soccer matches were held in Oakley’s honor on the same field.

A Rosarian Academy student, Oakley always wore red sneakers. He liked Nike’s red cleats because he thought they made him faster in sports and he always wore red Pumas off the field because he thought they looked cool, his mother said.

Now those red shoes are a symbol around the world. The organization’s Facebook page recently reached 10,000 follows, and the family often receives stories about how Oakley and the organization’s awareness campaigns helped to save lives.

That’s where resident Tatiana Platt comes in.

She had met Oakley and his family before his death and when Merrill Debbs told her about starting the foundation at the first soccer event, Platt asked what her plan was for social media. Debbs said she didn’t have one yet, and Platt went straight to work.

“Literally, standing here on the soccer field, I created all the social media accounts and started posting,” Platt said.

She ran a campaign around Thanksgiving on the Instagram page, giving families tips for handling someone with food allergies including knowing the symptoms, never leaving home without an EpiPen and speaking up.

Platt said she’s working on another campaign around Christmas time, which will be inspired by the viral ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and ask people to donate at least $20 — Oakley’s number when he played sports.

Platt’s three kids were all on the soccer field Saturday. She loves that they are there to support the Debbs family, but watching them brought up other feelings too.

“It’s wonderful, but it’s also bittersweet because I look at them and realize life is so precious,” she said. “In Oakley’s case, it just took one bite.”



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