Alex Morris had to give up French bread, but one day she hopes to eat it again.
When the Washington Junior High School seventh-grader recently was diagnosed with celiac disease, she had to eliminate a number of foods from her diet, including her favorite, French bread. As a distance runner competing for the Wildcats cross country team, eating bread is always part of the preparation for endurance runs, but with her health at stake, Alex couldn’t eat it anymore.
To help lead the way to curing celiac disease, Alex is planning a 5K run to benefit the Celiac Disease Foundation.
Several weeks before Alex found out she had celiac disease, a family friend who has it was at the house. Alex announced, “I would die if I have celiac disease.”
People with celiac disease can’t eat gluten, a protein found in wheat, because it causes an inflammation in their bowels.
It has been a challenge, but not as big as one might think — although there is no gluten-free substitute for French bread.
“There is nothing close to French bread that’s gluten free,” Alex said.
Her mother, Jody, has switched the entire family to eating gluten free at home, but they aren’t always quite the same.
Still, with the awareness about celiac disease growing, the number of brands offering tasty foods has increased, and Jody is working with a dietician to ensure the family is eating well. Just differently.
“Not a day goes by that I’m not looking at a recipe on the Internet,” Jody said. “I’ll pull out the reading glasses and read every label. It’s more of an inconvenience, but it could be worse.”
While many people who suffer from celiac disease suffer from inflammation of their bowels, Alex had no digestive discomfort.
“She wasn’t meeting her growth curve the last few years,” said Jody of the trigger to what was wrong.
A blood test confirmed the diagnosis, and life changed for the Morris family. However, when it came time for Alex’s service project, the entire family was brainstorming what she could do. The three Morris children have all been exposed to charities such as Feed My Starving Children. Alex once had a birthday party at the local pet shelter ADOPT. Finding a different cause from what she had already done wasn’t easy.
With her father Randy’s help, the race was born, and father and daughter set to work to make it happen.
Part of the family’s goal is getting the word out about celiac disease, because Alex had no symptoms.
“It’s not one of the things doctors look for,” Jody said.
Other children could be suffering from chronic malnutrition, which keeps them from growing, just like Alex.
Putting on a race, especially one certified by USA Track & Field is no small feat, but Alex isn’t fazed by it. The hardest part for her has been seeking donations and sponsorships, plus getting the word out to people about the event.
“It’s getting easier,” she said, knowing that everything will come together on race day.
“To see a young person who has that much energy (to plan a race), how can you not help out?” asked race sponsor Kris Hartner who owns the Naperville Running Company.
Hartner is contributing financially by donating raffle prices and giveaways for the race.
“I’m proud of her,” Jody said. “I do believe she will cure celiac disease. She wants to be a scientist or a physician. She is a very determined girl.”
For Alex, she is looking forward to the results of all her work.
“I want to see everything come together,” she said.
All for the love of French bread.Tags: 5K, Celiac Disease Foundation, fun run, fundraising