At least 3 million Americans have celiac disease, but as many as 50 to 83% of them could be undiagnosed. Awareness of this autoimmune condition is key to getting people the diagnosis they deserve—here’s how one teenager is making an impact in her community.
Grace was diagnosed with celiac disease at five years old. She had been suffering from constipation and stomach pains for a couple of years, but when she became increasingly more lethargic, pale and bloated, her parents took her to the doctor for testing. The pediatric gastroenterologist ordered blood work and her celiac disease tests returned extremely high results. A follow-up endoscopy with biopsy confirmed that she did in fact have celiac disease; it also revealed a bleeding ulcer, a complication of the disease.
Grace immediately went gluten-free; as a result, her stomach pain disappeared, her abdomen returned to a normal size, her blood test results normalized and her constipation lessened. In short, she felt a lot better!
Grace has now been gluten-free for more than a decade, and all the while she and her parents have been working to raise awareness of celiac disease. For example, in 2012 Grace had a lemonade stand to raise money for celiac disease research.
In 2018, then 14-year-old Grace Tate, alongside her dad, Missouri State Representative Nate Tate, wrote a bill that would make the second Wednesday in May Celiac Awareness Day. Grace assisted with writing and filing the bill, as well as pushing for it to be voted on by committees, the House, and the Senate. She also went to each state representative to personally explain the bill and celiac disease. Some already knew about celiac disease or had family members with it, but the majority had never heard of the disease.
When the bill made it into the committee stage and Grace was called upon to testify in front of a committee of 10 state representatives, she did so with confidence and determination. Once the bill passed out of committee, Grace was on a mission to see it picked up by the Speaker of the House so that it could be voted on by the entire House. She spent many days in the capital building visit with representatives and the Speaker. After successfully getting the bill on the docket, it was voted on and passed by the House.
However, the Senate proved more difficult. For multiple years, Grace worked to get it passed by both the House and the Senate. Finally in 2022 the bill was added to another bill and passed by both the House and the Senate! In August of 2022 Governor Parsons signed the bill into law, making the second Wednesday of May Celiac Awareness Day for the state of Missouri.
On January 24, 2023 Grace went to the Capital and had a ceremonial signing of the bill with Governor Parsons. It took five years of dedication and passion for this dream of Grace’s to come true, and her parents and family are immensely proud of her and her desire to education others on this disease.
Grace wants to ensure that May 10, 2023, the first Celiac Awareness Day in Missouri, is a big event for her hometown of St Clair, MO! In preparation, she’s working with local vendors and businesses to set up stands with delicious gluten-free food and information about celiac disease.
We encourage everyone to host an event this May for Celiac Awareness Month—big or small, you can make a difference! We thank community members like Grace for leading by example. Our community is stronger when we all work together to raise awareness of celiac disease.