Craig founded Kicking 4 Celiac in 2011 to raise awareness and educate for Celiac Disease. That same year he created a scholarship program benefiting college bound diagnosed high school students, by offsetting their gluten-free food costs while in school. He has a Student Ambassador Program to raise awareness in schools and ‘Cleats 4 Kids’, which is a project he started to disperse donated cleats to organizations and recreational centers where they are needed the most. Here is what he says:
“The purpose of this is to keep children active, and to help them continue to live an enjoyable and happy lifestyle. Exercise, as well as proper nutrition and education is so important, and I want to help strengthen that ideal within the recipients of these donations”, said Craig.
The football arena kicker that impressively kicked 717 – 40 yard field goals in 12 hours, setting his first Guinness World Record for Awareness, Meet Craig Pinto…
1. I know you have Crohn’s, which does not sound pleasant to begin with and then you were diagnosed with Celiac, how old were you?
I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease as a 12 year old, and then diagnosed with Celiac Disease 10 years later, as a 22 year old.
2. How did you figure out you had celiac disease after your Crohn’s diagnosis?
I was having constant symptoms that were consistent with Crohn’s, but they persisted regardless of what medication I had been taking. As I continued to try and eat I felt worse, which prompted my physician to check for Celiac, and that was when I was diagnosed.
3. How long did it take for you to finally start feeling better completely?
Physically, it took me about a month to really adjust to feeling well all day long. Mentally it took longer for me to adjust. I had some anxieties about being social, going out and being active without worrying that I may suffer from cross contamination, along with feeling a social stigma of having to worry about both crohn’s and celiac publicly.
4. Did your doctor find you had vitamin deficiencies? Do you get randomly tested to make sure that you are still not deficient?
5.What was your life like growing up with these diseases?
As for my Crohn’s diagnosis, it was almost a blessing to me being diagnosed so young. I didn’t give it much thought because I wanted to always be out, playing sports, or being active, and I did not think too much into it outside of taking medication, daily. When I was diagnosed with Celiac 14 years ago, that hit me like a ton of bricks because I did not know much about it, and neither did many people around me. There was one health food store in about a 50 mile radius that carried frozen gf bread, and there was not much awareness out at restaurants or to the public in general. This adjustment was a lot tougher on me than adjusting to my earlier diagnosis of Crohn’s.
6. What is the best thing about being gluten free?
I am a creature of habit, so knowing what I had to do to make sure my diet was proper, and then implementing it daily is something that I loved getting a handle on.
7. What was the worst experience you had before being diagnosed?
Before being diagnosed, the worst experiences always included not really knowing what was going on with my body. I was a college athlete at the time, so not feeling optimal everyday was something that wasn’t always easy to handle.
8. What is the best advice you can give other men about the importance of being tested early and not ignoring symptoms?
The most important thing I can think of is that knowing you have celiac, and getting tested for it can change your life for the better, without having to take medication. Too often I know we hear how much “people couldn’t live without (insert any food here)” and it’s almost as if that particular food is worth more to them than their health, or potentially their lives. Being tested if your symptoms persist is more important than any food or beverage can really ever be.
9. What made you take the knowledge of your illness public becoming not only an advocate but start your own organization?
When I was in my second year of arena football, I knew I wanted to utilize whatever platform I was given to raise awareness for celiac disease. As an athlete I thought it was important to show that daily physically demanding regiments were still possible for people with celiac disease. As my outreach grew and I was able to meet more and more people, it really inspired me to want to take it to a larger level, which is when I started my foundation.
10. What is your hope form the future with your organization?
I would love to continuously grow our scholarship program. From its inception, it really has been amazing to meet high school students who live with celiac disease daily, but have found a way to change their lives for the better after diagnosis. We have awarded $20,000 in three years so far, and I hope that this can continuously grow, as it is something that separates our organization, as not many offer a scholarship specific to helping students defray meal costs while in college.
For more on Craig you can find him: