“Beat the Wheat”

. March 21, 2013.

Children's birthday parties have a fairly standard menu: pizza, cake, and cookies are always expected, and in demand. But for kids with celiac disease, that standard menu can leave them feeling excluded and anxious — celiacs must eliminate all gluten, a protein found in wheat flour and many other ingredients, from their diet to avoid serious problems with their digestive systems. Local mom Cheri Shinaver learned firsthand how difficult the radical dietary changes can be for parents and their children when her daughter Kaylee was diagnosed in late 2011, after years of stomach pain and sick days taken off from school. “I cried at the grocery store — it was super hard, it was overwhelming,” she explains. But Shinaver wanted to connect with parents experiencing the same challenges, so she teamed with school teacher Holly Welsch to create The Celiac Support Group, which meets quarterly at Sylvania First United Methodist Church. Families join together to trade advice and taste-test gluten-free products, with the goal of helping each other confront the diagnosis. Shinaver is making other efforts, as well, hosting the first ever “Beat the Wheat” race to raise awareness about  the autoimmune disease on Sunday, May 19 at 9am at Olander Park. For more information on the race, email beatthewheatrace@gmail.com. The Celiac Support Group’s next meeting is Wednesday, May 1 at 6:30pm at 7000 Erie St., Sylvania. For more information about the group, email youandmegutenfree@hotmail.com.