Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Teen Produces “Catwalk for Celiac” Event to Benefit Teens Living with Celiac

Kayla Lafi, an enterprising 17-year-old, is certainly making her mark in the Celiac community!   She’s created a new non-profit, Teens Living with Celiac (TLC), and hosted its premiere event, a fashion show titled “Catwalk for Celiac.”
Having lived with Celiac since the age of eight, Kayla sought a “fun and innovative” way to raise awareness and funds for the autoimmune disease. She had an experience several years ago that left a lasting impression and also served as the inspiration for her desire to join help others.
While in California competing in a pageant, Kayla met a girl from Colorado who was also living with Celiac. Before that chance encounter, Kayla had never met anyone in her age group who had been diagnosed. The two girls shared the same questions, concerns and ideas and enjoyed the time they spent together.
“We both were so excited to have finally met someone else with Celiac who understood the teen/kid Celiac experience,” Kayla said.  So what does a teen do to bring this issue to the forefront?  What else?  Find the resources and financial support to create a non-profit.  Kayla took it one step further.  In 2011, she applied for Scholastic, Inc.’s BE BIG In Your Community contest to support civic engagement.  Kayla was chosen as one of ten first place finalists from all over the country to win a $2,500 community grant for her program.  This grant has allowed Kayla to incorporate her non-profit, TLC, and enhance her already spectacular annual fundraiser, Catwalk for Celiac.  This grant also matched Kayla to a local affiliate of the national Points of Light Institute, the Volunteer Center of Bergen County.  “The mentorship has been a wonderful opportunity to work side by side with an inspiring and passionate young lady who I know will succeed in whatever she does,” states Debbie Emery, Program Director for the Volunteer Center of Bergen County.
According to Kayla, TLC is a non-profit organization driven by teens for teens! “We want to give support to other teens with celiac disease as they are making a difference in their communities. We have developed programs and project kits to help YOU raise awareness in your community!”
TLC's mission is to raise awareness for Celiac disease to the general public and their communities so that no celiac teen, tween, or child feels left out!  Young people who are diagnosed with celiac disease need a place to feel at home and not isolated. TLC provides the support needed for teens with celiac, raising awareness and helping them make a difference.
The importance of peer connection is not lost on Kayla. She is using her annual “Catwalk for Celiac” as a springboard highlighting her nonprofit organization, TLC, encouraging others, especially young people, to promote awareness in their own schools and communities.  This year’s event, which featured the fashion show plus delicious (gluten-free) dinner, music, raffles, and presentations by inspiring speakers, raised almost $9000.

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