NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Researchers believe that as many as 1 in 100 Americans have celiac disease. Many of them, however, may not even be aware of it.
On Friday evening, one of New York’s baseball teams is doing their part to help. The Mets will host Celiac Disease Awareness Night at Citi Field during their matchup with the division rival Philadelphia Phillies.
“I think one of the biggest things is just the awareness of it, just people knowing that they have it,” SNY reporter Kevin Burkhardt, who was diagnosed with celiac disease about 10 years ago, told 1010 WINS.
Burkhardt said he had never heard of celiac disease before he was diagnosed with it after getting sick and losing 30 pounds in a month.
1010 WINS’ Alice Stockton-Rossini with Kevin Burkhardt
Burkhardt is urging baseball fans with celiac disease – - which prevents people from digesting gluten, a protein in foods like bread, crackers, and pasta – - to come down to the ballpark for the game.
Celiac disease increases chances of developing autoimmune diseases, osteoporosis, thyroid disease and some cancers. The only known treatment for celiac disease is a complete gluten-free diet.
Special sections for people with celiac, their families, friends and anyone else who wants to support the cause have been set aside at the stadium for the game.
“We’re gonna have a special gluten-free concession stand right behind our section in left field,” Burkhardt said. “You’ll have the comfort of knowing you can come out, there’s plenty of food for you to eat and you don’t have to worry about getting sick.”
That’s a comfort Mets fans with Celiac Disease have every night. Citi Field is one of the few professional sports venues that has a permanent concession stand serving gluten-free food.
The stand makes finding a place to eat one less thing for Burkhardt to think about while he’s running around the park.
He also thinks it’s a one less thing for Mets fans with Celiac Disease to worry about these days.
“You can have a hot dog and a beer and have a normal night at a game…which is kinda nice.”
Portions of ticket sales from the game will go to support the Celiac kids charity R.O.C.K. Long Island and the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness.
Elisabeth Hasselbeck, who also suffers from the disease, will be honored before the game for her contributions to the cause.