Hempfield 8-year-old raises awareness about celiac disease | TribLIVE.com
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Megan Tomasic

Morgan Shondelmyer is hoping to make a difference in celiac disease research.

So far, the 8-year-old who was diagnosed with the immune disease that prevents people from eating gluten in 2015 has done just that.

Raising over $800 in five days on her fundraising page named Morgan’s Mission, Shondelmyer is now a student ambassador for the Celiac Disease Foundation — working to raise awareness at Hempfield’s West Point Elementary School.

“This all started when I contacted the Celiac Disease Foundation in possibly helping an elementary school girl with some information to hand out for her third-grade science fair project on being gluten free,” said Morgan’s mother, Amber Shondelmyer. “And here we are just weeks later, and she is a signed member of the student ambassador program for caring so much about the cause.”

In 2015, Amber Shondelmyer took her daughter to the doctor. They ended up in the hospital not knowing why Morgan was sick. There, a doctor ran a test showing she had celiac disease.

“I was beside myself, granted, I know there are much worse things out there,” Shondelmyer said, remembering the day her daughter received her diagnosis. “But this was my world, and it was going to be a huge lifestyle change for our whole family and then some.”

About 10% of people with the disease will be diagnosed between ages 2 and 4, almost 17% percent between 4 and 12 years old, 27% between the ages of 12 and 20 and 34% over 20, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation’s website

Amber, along with her husband Frank and son Travis Shondelmyer, changed their diets, limiting restaurant outings and packing special meals for Morgan for school functions.

But the change in diet showed an almost instant difference in her daughter, Shondelmyer said.

“I felt totally helpless as a mom and that I let her suffer for years of not knowing what was wrong, but now I am grateful we found out when we did and this is all Morgan knows really on how to eat,” she said. “Some people suffer way longer without being diagnosed.”

Untreated, celiac disease can cause iron deficiency anemia, early onset osteoporosis, infertility and miscarriage, lactose intolerance and more, the foundation reports.

Now, Morgan describes her student ambassador role as helping to make “other people understand what I have to go through.”

On top of her fundraising page, she was asked to plan a fundraiser event next month to raise funds for the foundation.

“She has come along way,” Shondelmyer said. “I could not be more humbled or proud to call her my daughter. She amazes me everyday, and I wouldn’t change our lives for anything.”

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