WESTFIELD, NJ -- When 4-year-old Sydney Kessler was diagnosed with celiac disease, a digestive condition triggered by the consumption of the protein gluten, her family vowed to do everything possible to make her more comfortable.
Though the disease cannot be outgrown nor treated with medication, by making dietary changes, it can be managed. By eliminating foods such as bread, pasta, and many others containing wheat, barley or rye, the Kesslers, who live in Westfield, have seen their daughter thrive in the year following her diagnosis.
The preschooler is feeling so much better in fact that, along with their parents, Sydney, her twin brother, Alex, and 1-year-old sister participated in the Center for Celiac Research 'Making Tracks for Celiacs' run/walk on Sunday, May 19 in Baltimore to raise funds for ongoing research and to increase awareness of the condition.
Earlier this year, the family formed the team 'Sydney's Silly Yaks' with the hope of raising $1,500. By March, Team Silly Yaks had already doubled its goal and on the day of the event, with a total of $3,935 donated, the group was recognized as the top fundraising team in the country, with Sydney honored as the top fundraiser.
"We had an amazing day," said Sydney's mom, Nicole. "Sydney and Alex did a great job on the walk and they were asked to help present the trophies to the runners because of their significant fundraising. It was adorable."
In March, Sydney told Patch she wanted to raise the money so that one day she could eat the same foods as her brother without her belly hurting.
"She won two raffles because of all of the tickets she earned from fundraising and was so excited to bring her special treats from the walk in (to school) today," explained Nicole. "I was just so grateful to the organizers for making her feel special. We try to teach the kids that differences are things that make you special, and so it was so nice that this event, which we built up so much, enforced that for her. Getting to be up there congratulating the runners was such a thrill and even though it took us about an hour to do the 5K, my kids keep telling everyone they won. It was a really special memory for the entire family that I’ll cherish, and was just so touched by the support of friends and family."
Nicole encourages other parents who suspect that their child may have celiac disease to trust their instincts. "It doesn't hurt to get tested other than the prick of a needle. It's better to know than not know. While it's (facing a new diagnosis) upsetting and overwhelming, the difference you see in your child or your loved one, is worth all the struggle."