What is your connection to celiac disease?

My daughter was diagnosed with celiac disease at 21 years old. At first, we all were in denial and had no idea what the disease was all about. We took her to Mayo Clinic for a second opinion.  It wasn’t until she got the results of the endoscopy confirming the celiac disease diagnosis that we realized that it was something to be taken seriously and needed to make substantial changes in her life. I threw away 90% of things in my kitchen, from pot and pans to pantry items. We all began a gluten-free diet so there wasn’t a chance for cross contact. After eating gluten-free for two years, my daughter’s intestinal villi had become healthy again, and she’s feeling good!

What inspired you to create the annual AITI Golf Outing, benefiting the Celiac Disease Foundation?

Celiac disease is something that we don’t know much about. Since my daughter was diagnosed with this disease, I wanted to help raise money for research for a cure. People are often unaware of what celiac disease is, and having a fundraiser is a good way to raise awareness and help people understand that a gluten-free diet is not a trend, but a necessity.

Can you describe your AITI Golf Outing?

We first had this event in 2016, and it’s been a success each year since then.  The golf outing is an 18-hole golf scramble with a few contests and dinner. Each of the par 3 holes have impressive prizes for golfers who get a hole-in-one, including a prize of $10,000. There is also a putting contest where the winner receives $1,000. There is also a buy-in to play the Poker Run.  The Poker Run gives half of the pot to the best poker hand, and the other half of the pot goes to the Celiac Disease Foundation. The entry fee covers a raffle ticket where golfers can win unbelievable gifts, and there are enough for every golfer to get something. Examples of exciting raffle prizes include, a night out at the Marriott with dinner, theater show, breakfast and spa treatment, hands-on cooking class for 2 at the Chopping Block, PING clubs). At the end of the event, each golfer also receives a goodie-bag filled with gluten-free snacks and golf trinkets. My favorite thing about this event is appreciating how caring and generous people can be.

Why is raising money for celiac disease research, education, and advocacy important to you?

Raising money for the Celiac Disease Foundation is important to me because of my daughter’s experience with celiac disease. As her mother, it’s difficult to watch her experience the painful effects that gluten has on her body.  Living gluten-free is not an easy task. People often think the gluten-free diet is a trend, and they fail to realize that it’s currently the only treatment for celiac disease. Many people are surprised to discover the severe effects a single crumb of gluten can have on a person with celiac disease.

You’ve been an incredible fundraiser for the Celiac Disease Foundation. What advice would you give others, particularly other parents, who want to get involved in fundraising?

Thank you! The success of the outing goes to all the awesome volunteers and sponsors! A lot of effort goes into recruiting sponsors and asking for donations. Showing how passionate you are about your cause helps persuade sponsors to participate. This is easy for me because celiac disease is a large part of my life. We are so grateful to have such generous sponsors!

Would you like to fundraise on behalf of the Celiac Disease Foundation? Join Team Gluten-Free and put your talents and passions to work in the fight against celiac disease!

Editor’s Note: Pots and pans may be washed with soap and water to remove gluten, so a diagnosis of celiac disease does not mean you have to throw your existing cookware away.