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Family raises awareness for microcephaly with snack food

Family finds snack food to be a reliable way to spread awareness of and raise money for their daughter’s neurological disorder. 

There’s something different about Rylee’s Kettle Chips. They’re made with natural ingredients, are fairly healthy — for a snack — and they’re very tasty. But they’re named for founder Rick Jewell’s daughter Rylee, who suffers from microcephaly, and a portion of sales proceeds benefits the Foundation for Children with Microcephaly.

It’s an unusual approach to help a neurological disorder in which an infant’s head develops smaller than normal. Microcephaly affects twice as many children as autism and ranges from no developmental delays to mild symptoms and, for sufferers like 4-year-old Rylee, severe retardation.

“There’s no treatment, it’s just a matter of making her life as comfortable as possible,” says Rick Jewell. “She still uses a feeding tube, but she recognizes voices and she has a tremendous smile. All we can do is make her happy.”

Microcephaly isn’t new. Historically, patients have been both revered and shunned. As circus freaks, they were cruelly referred to as pinheads. The Foundation for Children with Microcephaly funds research in genetic links and possible prevention. The FCM also provides families with support and medical equipment.

Some research shows that supplementing folic acid before and during pregnancy and taking iron during gestation might help prevent the disease.

Why kettle chips?

“I’ve worked in the food industry for 20 years. I can’t paint a picture, I can’t build houses — but I thought there must be something I can do with food to help.”

It’s helped a lot. Besides providing funds for the foundation, awareness is priceless. “Autism has celebrities and a high profile; microcephaly is barely known. Since I launched the chips last year, we’ve been getting e-mail after e-mail talking about it. They usually end with, ‘Hey, your chips are great, too.’”

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