11+ Kids and Teens with Celiac Disease Already Doing Seriously Amazing Things

If you read this blog regularly, you know that I love applying a positive perspective to life with celiac disease. At times, though, having a chronic illness or needing to follow a gluten free can feel pretty dang hard.

11+ Kids and Teens with Celiac Disease Who are Doing Seriously Amazing Things

That’s why today’s post is highlighting 11+ kids and teens who are totally kicking booty at life, even with celiac disease! Whether you have a child with celiac you want to feel less alone or just want to read about some amazing members of the younger generations, keep scrolling to discover some pretty inspiring girls and guys.

1. A (Literal) Master Chef

If you’re a fan of the cooking show, Master Chef Junior, you probably already know all about Che Spiotta. Spoiler alert: he’s the winner of the latest season of Master Chef Junior.

11+ Kids and Teens with Celiac Disease Who are Doing Seriously Amazing Things

According to this interview, the now-thirteen-year-old has still not mastered the art of baking gluten free bread, but he certainly doesn’t let his diet get in the way of enjoying himself in the kitchen. As Che puts it: “I probably started on the stove when I was 3 or 4. I think that’s because I’m gluten free, and at first I didn’t know what I had; there were just lots of foods I couldn’t eat...When I realized I was gluten free, I just kept on cooking. I realized how much fun it is. I love the creativity about it. “

2. 10 and 11-Year-Old Authors

The most impressive part of these stories isn’t that Lillian Bordoni and Kristen Adam respectively published books about celiac disease at ten and eleven years old. What really gets me are motivations behind these girls’ separate projects.

Kristen, author of Dear Celiac (available on Amazon), wanted to keep kids with celiac disease from feeling lonely when they were first diagnosed, like Kristen felt. Meanwhile, Lillian reportedly had one of the most extreme forms of celiac disease seen by Children’s Hospital Colorado. So she wrote and illustrated Cecilia the Celiac Superhero (available on Story Jumper) to tell show readers that anyone can thrive with celiac disease as long as “they just all put their family together and try super duper hard.”

3. Hockey Superstar 

If you’re a big fan of hockey, you probably already know about Kaapo Kakko, a Finnish hockey player who was the second draft pick for the 2019 NHL.

But besides being an amazing hockey player who won three gold medals in the Finnish hockey world, Kakko also has diabetes and celiac disease. And Kakko won’t let either of those conditions get in the way of him dominating the ice.

11+ Kids and Teens with Celiac Disease Who are Doing Seriously Amazing Things

In fact, when asked about his health struggles, the eighteen-year-old replied, “It’s nothing for me. I got (diagnosed) five years ago. It’s a normal thing for me.”

4. Members of the Celiac Youth Leadership Council in Seattle

Seattle Children's Hospital is doing more than just diagnosing kids with celiac disease; it's also empowering celiac kids and teens to take part in a mostly kid-run outreach and mentor program for people with celiac disease. Besides raising celiac awareness in their community, celiac teens like Elle Penarczyk are running a gluten free food drive for a local food bank and "testing gluten-free products sold in regular bakeries and pizzerias to see if they’re affected by flour in the air."

Talk about a hospital - and a group of young celiacs - who are seriously going above and beyond.

5. Twin Authors Heading to College

As the self-named Casey the College Celiac, I obviously love hearing about the new generations of celiacs heading off to college. In particular, I love hearing about new advocates educating others along the way...and Rayna and Hallie Katzman definitely fit both bills.

11+ Kids and Teens with Celiac Disease Who are Doing Seriously Amazing Things
Via the twins' Facebook page

Before they went off to college, the girls worked with their mother to write and publish a book based on their celiac diagnosis at age 13 called Everybody’s Got Something: My First Year with Celiac Disease (also available on Amazon). According to this interview, the girls wanted to create a book that filled the gap between books about celiac disease for younger kids and for adults, and gave them the information they wish they had at 13.

6. Miss Pinal County 

Josephine Taylor didn't let celiac disease or Hashimoto's keep her from winning Miss Pinal County - and she's using her platform to raise some major celiac awareness. In particular, she's been working on making sure that all Arizona high schools have a safe, cross-contamination-free microwave that students with dietary restrictions can use. That way, students with celiac disease or food allergies can still eat in the cafeteria along with everyone else.

At least as of this report, Taylor's efforts have paid off in one school district. But I'm sure Taylor's mission is far from over.

7. Taylor Miller from Hale Life

I've been fortunate enough to meet this teen in real life (at the first Gluten Free Teen Summit), and Taylor Miller is as kind in person as he is online. Taylor is the guy behind the super popular gluten free website, Hale Life (formally Gluten Away). Besides being a huge celiac and chronic illness advocate that speaks at tons of different events around America, Taylor also works with gluten free brands on social media marketing, owns a gluten free bakery in Tampa, Florida with his mom, and has started taking college classes. Suffice to say, he's a pretty cool guy!

11+ Kids and Teens with Celiac Disease Who are Doing Seriously Amazing Things

8. Miss Nebraska Hopeful

Lianna Prill started competing in pageants as a junior in high school and qualified to compete for the spot of Miss Nebraska in 2014. It wasn't until Prill's dad was diagnosed with celiac disease that Prill eventually realized her constant migraines and flu-like symptoms could be symptoms of the same disease. Since going gluten and dairy free, Prill says, “Now I’m a new woman. All that stuff with being sick that I just wanted to forget about was actually part of a plan. I can’t wait to share that story and hopefully save some lives.”

At least as of this Facebook post in 2017, it seems like Prill is still fighting for her crown - but she did come in third place!

9. Celiac Strong Camp Founder

I've loved seeing that, nowadays, there are several celiac camps that occur all over the country. One of these camps, though, actually started out as Sabrina DeVos's Girl Scout project when she was just 16 years old. Nowadays, Sabrina is 21, but her Celiac Strong Camp is still (pun intended) going strong. Her main goal? In Sabrina's words: "I want other kids to experience the joy of having a few of worry free days and create a place where they can just be kids."

11+ Kids and Teens with Celiac Disease Who are Doing Seriously Amazing Things

10. A Creative Cooking Champion

If you need some inspiration for getting creative in the kitchen, here's another inspirational teen for you to check out! Her name is Maizy Boosin and she beat three other young chefs to become a Chopped Junior Champion. Besides raising celiac awareness in the actual episode by talking about her condition, Boosin also shared plans to donate some of her $10,000 winnings to celiac disease research and education.

11. All of the gluten free and celiac kids you know in your own life! 

Of course, we can't forget to celebrate every kid, preteen and teenager who's navigating the usual hurdles of life along with eating gluten free and thriving with a chronic illness.

And if you or the inspirational little celiac in your life needs even more young role models to look up to, you can check out Gluten Free Living's list of epic gluten free ambassadors, who range from a young cookbook author donating all her proceeds to celiac research to kids just spreading celiac awareness in their own community.

11+ Kids and Teens with Celiac Disease Who are Doing Seriously Amazing Things

What I Hope Everyone Knows about Living with Celiac Disease as a Teen

Honestly, this post really hits home for me because I was diagnosed with celiac disease at age 16. In fact, I was diagnosed only a few weeks before my senior year...and less than a month before I was asked out on my first date. So before I even really knew how to take care of and feed myself safely with celiac disease, I already had to navigate the awkward reality of living with celiac disease at an age where 99% of social events revolve around food.

And I'm not gonna sugarcoat it. It. Was. (And still is, in grad school). Hard. It was hard to not know what to order while visiting an ice cream shop on my first date, or to constantly turn down food at pizza parties, graduation events, freshman orientation and all throughout college. But I did it. Heck, even though I was hospitalized for celiac complications as a freshman in college, I can still say that I created some amazing (gluten free) memories during those four years.

11+ Kids and Teens with Celiac Disease Who are Doing Seriously Amazing Things

At the end of the day, I think these kids are sending the same message I try to always convey: that celiac disease can be tricky at any age but that you can still kick butt through it. And you might even change the world along the way!

No questions - just tell me your thoughts! <3


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