Advocates for Awareness: An Entire Rock Band!
From September 2008
Planning the NFCA Gluten-Free Cooking Spree is an enormous task- a task so large that the NFCA staff could not do it alone. Fortunately, NFCA was blessed to find an incredible group of women in Boston to make up our steering committee! So, our September advocate for awareness is not just one rock star, but it’s an entire band!
What does the cooking spree steering committee do, you may ask? Well, as I’m sure you are aware, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness does not have an office in Boston, so the Steering Committee represents our eyes, ears, and hands in Massachusetts. They have helped with everything from recruiting our chefs and doctors to selling ads in our program to hunting down auction items to getting the Boston community excited about the event! Because of all of their help, the Boston cooking spree is going to be one of the best!
But the cooking spree isn’t all these women are doing in their communities to raise awareness of celiac disease! Each and every one of them is actively spreading the word every day! They do everything from running local support groups to teaching gluten-free cooking classes to speaking across New England about celiac. Let’s learn more about these amazing ladies and how they truly are Celiac Awareness Rock Stars!
Tara Taft is the co-chair of the Children’s Hospital Boston Celiac Support Group. She became involved in the celiac community when her daughter was diagnosed in 2000. She helps the support group organize their meetings and produce their newsletters. On top of that, she is helping her daughter’s Girl Scout Troop educate the public about celiac disease as part of their Bronze Award project. Tara has helped NFCA recruit many of our participants and has enjoyed connecting with the various chefs and medical professionals to teach them about celiac disease.
Lee Graham is the current President of the Healthy Villi support group. She was originally diagnosed with celiac disease as a child but was told she had grown out of it. She was re-diagnosed in 1997 after over 40 years of poor health. Since then, she has been actively involved in Healthy Villi, helping organize their meetings, produce their newsletter and national celiac conferences. Lee has been a huge help in organizing the steering committee and selling ads and is very excited to see NFCA come to Boston!
Cathy Dwyer was diagnosed with celiac disease in 1972 and helped to co-found a smaller celiac support group. She is currently active in the Healthy Villi, helping with the vendors at their meetings. She helps to raise celiac awareness everyday while working at MIT – oftentimes the internists will send newly diagnosed patients her way for advice! Cathy helped NFCA sell ads in the cooking spree program and has been incredibly excited by the positive response in the Boston community.
Allison Inserra is one of the newer celiac patients on the steering committee, having been diagnosed two years ago after her sister learned she had celiac. She is very active with the online celiac community, posting her experience and answering questions she sees in the Internet forums. Allison talks to people about celiac everyday, which made her a huge asset to our publicity committee!
Gillian O’Callaghan entered the celiac community six years ago when her son was diagnosed at 6 years old. She joined the Children’s Hospital support group and started learning how to cook gluten-free. Today she teaches gluten-free cooking classes all over the Boston area, at Whole Foods and at Healthy Villi meetings. She has enjoyed helping NFCA raise awareness by recruiting participants.
Lauren Komack’s story is similar to Lee’s, in that she was also diagnosed with celiac as a baby but told she “outgrew” it. She was re-diagnosed in her early 40s. Lauren is a psychotherapist and speaks all over New England about the emotional and psychological aspects of adjusting to life with celiac disease. She is also on the board of the Healthy Villi and writes articles for their newsletter about how to be a personal advocate. She loves seeing how we can help people change their lives!
Barbara LeClair was diagnosed with celiac disease 5 years ago after her 17-year old daughter was diagnosed. She is on the board of the Children’s Hospital support group. Barbara works as a hospital administrator and takes any opportunity she can to talk to patients who may exhibit symptoms about celiac disease, letting them know that it may be a possibility. She has helped NFCA recruit cooking spree participants.
These seven amazing women, along with the help of Susan Cummings and Julia Kafrissan, make up the Boston Celiac Awareness Rock Star Band! While NFCA greatly appreciates all of their hard work on the Boston Cooking Spree, we know that their work will not stop with us. These women are raising awareness of celiac disease every day and it is because of the work of people like them that more and more people are learning about celiac disease and getting diagnosed, thus restoring their health and reclaiming their lives! Thank You Boston Cooking Spree Steering Committee!