Celiac Awareness Night with the Philadelphia Phillies
Citizens Bank Park (home of my beloved Philadelphia Phillies) is my happy place; there is nothing better than hanging out at the ballpark, rooting for my team and trying to catch hot dogs from the Phillie Phanatic’s surprisingly powerful hot dog launcher. So you can imagine my excitement when I joined the NFCA team and was told to grab a ticket for Celiac Awareness Night at the Phillies game. Raising celiac awareness andwatching the Phils? Count me in!
Fun Fact! The Phillie Phanatic was voted #1 mascot in the country by Forbes Magazine in 2008 and 2011.
On the day of the game, Cheryl, Suzanne, Nancy and I made our way to the ballpark to set up our display tables. We were fully equipped with brochures, flyers, and giveaways and ready to talk to people about celiac disease and the gluten-free diet. We set up near the gluten-free concession stand and were joined by two enthusiastic NFCA volunteers, Cecilia Bonaduce and Rebecca Urbano. Despite gusty winds and the strong possibility of rain, we managed to stay dry and keep our flyers on the table…well, mostly. It was an unseasonably cold night (everyone was wearing jackets in July!), but over 600 NFCA supporters still came out to celebrate Celiac Awareness Night.
Fun Fact! A portion of ticket sales for the game benefitted NFCA and will be used to help continue our programs and services.
While the tables were getting set up and the gluten-free hot dogs were cooking on the grill, Cheryl had the chance to take a tour of Citizens Bank Park with Michael Savett of Gluten Free Philly and his family. With “Celiac Awareness Night” lighting up the scoreboards and NFCA Board Member Joe Jacovini gearing up to throw out the first pitch, Cheryl and the Savetts hung out on the field and watched the Phillies’ batting practice. Michael’s son even got to meet the Phillies’ center fielder, Shane Victorino!
Fun Fact! While on the tour, Cheryl learned that
the baseballs that line the walls of the Hall of Fame Club are screwed in the wrong way so they say “Rawlings,” not “Major League Baseball.”
After Joe tossed a great first pitch to the Phillie Phanatic, the park played a public service announcement on the jumbo-tron featuring pro-golfer Sarah Jane Smith talking about celiac disease. The PSA wasn’t the only gluten-free action on the jumbo-tron; check out these kids who hoped to get their fifteen minutes of fame on the big screen.
Fun Fact! Weighing in a 84,420 pounds and7,372 square feet , the jumbo-tron is so big you can see it from the highway!
Not surprisingly, the gluten-free concession stand was a major hot spot throughout the game. Unfortunately, some fan favorite foods were missing this year, so we are working with Aramark and Citizen’s Bank Park to improve gluten-free options for next year’s Celiac Awareness Night and throughout the season.
Although so many exciting things were going on at the ballpark, my favorite part was getting to meet the people who came out to show their support for NFCA. Every day, I get the opportunity to talk to the celiac community through social media, but this was the first time I had the chance to physically meet the people on the other side of the computer.
I was particularly struck by a woman who came up to the table just as we were about to leave. She started talking to me and Suzanne and told us her story of diagnosis. It turns out she had only been diagnosed with celiac about a week before the game. She was still unsure of what the gluten-free diet entailed and was barely eating for fear of becoming sick. We talked to her for a little while and loaded her up with brochures, information and other free resources. She was so grateful for the information. Meeting her was such a strong reminder of why NFCA is here, doing what we’re doing. To know that we were able to help her on the path to learning the gluten-free diet was an amazing feeling. Ironically, she bought tickets to the game before she was diagnosed, not knowing that it was Celiac Awareness Night. I guess sometimes, you’re just in the right place at the right time.