Words cannot explain the feeling of receiving a standing ovation. The feeling is simply overwhelming!
When I received an e-mail from Elaine Monarch asking me to speak at the Celiac Conference, I was in shock! I could not find a better outlet to promote my platform and create awareness. I immediately asked my sister, Angela, to travel with me. Ang also has celiac disease so I knew it would be something in which she was interested. However, I do not know who in the right mind would allow the two of us to travel alone! We had an absolute BLAST!!!
We arrived at the KCI airport on Thursday (Ang's bday!!) to take off for LA. Our flight was delayed for over 4 hours, so we decided to make the best of it. People you meet in the airport are very interesting, and I will say, we met our fair share of different people. Everyone we sat with in the airport had so many different views on life and it really got me thinking. One person we met had won 2 Emmy's and another was in the US Airforce (we had quite some time to visit). I encourage you to visit with people next time you travel!! You never know who you'll find :o)
We finally arrived in Los Angeles and were ready to sightsee a little bit before my duties took place. We walked on Hollywood Boulevard and saw some gorgeous homes. We were tempted to shop on Rodeo Dr., but instead our journey led us into Beverly Hills.
Our sightseeing time was cut short, but for good reason! We caught a cab back to the hotel just in time for the Celiac Volunteers Conference. I went over my speech in the elevator and walked in with confidence. Everyone at this meeting had such positive feelings toward Celiac disease. It was truly inspiring.
I began to speak about the importance of spreading the Celiac word and what volunteering does for our communities. I thanked the volunteers for all of their time and support with the Celiac Disease Foundation and let them know that they are not alone. When wrapping up my 20 minute speech, I told all 50 Celiac volunteers (one from every state) that I was proud to have Celiac Disease. I later learned that this statement left a greater impact on their lives than I ever could have imagined. When I finished speaking, it seemed that everyone had questions or wanted to visit with me so we took a break. It was difficult to speak with everyone during the short break, but I met some phenomenal people.
It is incredible to see how much networking took place at this meeting! I was asked to speak at several other statewide conferences within a matter of minutes. It was also very intriguing to know that everyone has been effected differently by Celiac disease.
This gentleman has a grandson with Celiac disease and attends school in Missouri. He is 9 years old and is having a lot of problems at school with bullies, because of Celiac. They asked if I would be willing to speak at an assembly for the school-- I am soooo there!!!
Once the conference was over, my sister and I met up with Lacey Fitzgerald, Miss Missouri 2008!!! I haven't seen Lacey since February, so we definitely had some catching up to do. Lacey and Pat took us to Takami, a wonderful sushi restaurant. Pat wanted Ang and I to try some some different types of sushi... so we agreed.
I'm sure that one can tell that by the looks of our faces we were not too fond of the texture at first...
Overall, we had a great time with Lacey and Pat- and with the new sushi adventure!
Saturday morning arrived and it was finally time for the long awaited convention!! As I entered the Grand Ballroom (to which they opened the saloons on all sides to expand), I was overwhelmed by the size and amount of people present. It was amazing to see how many people were there with Celiac disease and wanted to learn more. All of the people I met were so supportive and welcoming. Before I knew it, it was my turn to speak. Surprisingly enough, I was not nervous at all! I can thank the Miss Missouri Organization for all of that!
Waiting patiently to speak!!
The founder of CDF surprised me with her introduction! It was one of the sweetest things I had ever heard.
My speech went extremely well and before I knew it, people began to stand! Ahh, I still get chills just thinking about it.
During the next break, I was flooded with compliments, conversations and support. People continued to ask if they could vote for me in the Miss Missouri pageant! Ha!
One gentleman came up to me during the break and said, "I know you are busy right now, but I wanted to let you know that what you said was one of the most genuine and heartfelt things I have ever heard. You truly made a difference in my life and outlook on my disease."
It was at that point when my life changed. I never realized that one person's life could change so drastically because of something I said. It also struck me that he revered to celiac as "his" disease. I gave this much thought and was proud to know that he is accepting of the fact that he lives healthily with Celiac.
Chad Hines, founder of Glutenfreefaces.com
Elaine Monarch- truly an inspiration! Elaine is the founder of the Celiac Disease Foundation. She has been wonderful to work with and I cannot wait to see her again next year!
Ang and I couldn't resist a picture with the Celiac sign- be proud!!
I am pictured here with some of the ladies who lead the CDF organization in other states. They asked me to come and speak at their statewide Celiac events as well! Idaho and Washington, Miss KC is headed your way!
One of the best parts of the convention were all of the gluten free vendors that were present! Ang and I LOVED the vendors with all of the samples (my trainer hated it). It was so neat to see that gluten free items are finally becoming so popular and there are more options available to Celiacs. While walking around the vendors I was stopped by two mothers with their daughters. As I bent down to speak with and hug the girls, one of the mothers said, "We only came to the conference to see and hear you speak." If that wasn't touching enough, she went on to explain that the girls have had a difficult time in school dealing with Celiac and luckily they have each other. The mother explained that since the conference contained mainly doctors as speakers, the girls did not want to come because they wouldn't understand. She said that the second they found out that I would be speaking, they signed up. She went on to tell me that the girls look up to me and had been talking about meeting me for months. Since I met them after I spoke, she told me that one of the girls smiled at her and said, "I like having Celiac disease now."
The feelings I got when speaking with this mother are unexplainable.
The gluten free pancake breakfast!! Yumm!!!
Gluten free for kids! Awesome!
As I was getting ready to leave the convention I was stopped by a lady who was extremely out of breath! She explained that they had been trying to catch up with me all day in order to film a commercial about eating gluten free while on the go. Yet again, before I knew it, I was on screen speaking about how I stay gluten free during all of my travels.
Once my commercial is ready I will add a link for you all to check it out!!
Eventually it was time for a successful convention to come to an end. I enjoyed every second of it and wish I had words to explain all of the feelings and things that are running through my head right now. It is amazing to see how supportive people truly are. I'd like to thank everyone involved with the Celiac Disease Foundation and especially Elaine for all of her support.
Gluten free is the way to be!