Brand new this year and really exciting is the TAGS program – Teen Advocates for Gluten Sensitivities.
Oftentimes, after a child has outgrown the ROCK program or their local support group’s kids program, the teenager no longer wants to attend meetings. The problem that this generally poses is that they often don’t learn to speak up for themselves, many of them even going to college and fading into the background while Mom and Dad send food to them. While not a terribly bad fate, it is often not one they would choose.
GIG wanted to get these kids involved in a way that they would enjoy, and have a place for them to talk to each other. To kickstart the program, there was a day of classes at the conference for teens. Cynthia Kupper, national director of GIG, had this to say about the teen program:
I worked with the teens at the GIG conference. I have to say “They are Awesome!” 20 teens participated in a Chef Challenge, first thing in the morning. Few of these kids knew each other, and about the same number actually cook – but they all formed their teams and worked together to create some fun, creative dishes. The first place team won certificates valued at $125 towards the 2010 Conference.
Next they opened up time meant “just for them” to work with a mom of a ‘tweener’ looking for answers to help her child. They had great advice and insight for her. I was proud of their maturity in helping her.
Max Renke, a fabulous teen advocate from NH told the group about all the wonderful things he has done to make a difference for himself and others living with gluten sensitivities. He did a similar talk at the evening banquet and got a standing ovation!
TAGS (Teen Advocates for Gluten Sensitivities) is a national teen support system that these young people will be helping launch. I can’t wait to see all the wonderful things these young people are able to accomplish. Already they want their own leadership conference and can’t wait for the next Chef Challenge.
I had the chance to observe some of the teens’ discussions. If you want to know where the power lies, it is with those kids. This group isn’t just about having fun (which they do and will have a lot of), but it is also about Advocacy. Max Renke has been advocating for Celiac Disease since he was 9 years old. He has met with senators, representatives, his governor, and President Bush’s chief of staff. How much more powerful it is to hear about the issues from a child or teenager than it is from an adult!
Check out some of the pictures from the TAGS (TAGS pictures begin at number 66), and invite the teens in your life to get involved.