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Featured Article in the Indiana Gazette

Miss Indiana campaigns for celiac awareness

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Published: Sunday, August 16, 2009 1:55 AM EDT

For Jenna Drew and her mother, Denise, it’s not so easy to go out to a restaurant and eat.

Denise, who suffers from celiac disease, and Jenna, who is gluten-intolerant, can’t have foods with ingredients such as wheat, rye and barley, said Jenna.

That’s why she is hoping to use her new title of Miss Indiana International 2010 to bring awareness to celiac disease and gluten intolerance.

Jenna, 22, of White Township, will compete for the state title of Miss Pennsylvania in March.

The Miss International pageant system “has been developed to promote today’s young women and their accomplishments,” according to information on the group’s Web site at

Jenna was awarded the Miss Indiana title based on her education, platform and an interview. Up to 12 contestants will compete in the March event, with the winner moving on to compete for the Miss International title in Chicago.

The winner in Chicago gets to work for a year promoting their platform.

Celiac disease affects 3 million people in the United States, Jenna said. It’s the most common disease in the world, but she said 97 percent of people who have it don’t know it.

People with the disease can’t have wheat, rye, barley and sometimes oats, Denise said. With the digestive disease, the lining of the small intestine is damaged or destroyed by gluten, resulting in malnutrition.

For this reason, it’s hard to dine out, said Jenna. Many restaurants don’t offer gluten-free food, and she and her mother have to question the waiter or waitress about ingredients and how the food was prepared.

Denise calls it “dying out” instead of dining out because if her food was exposed to gluten, or someone was wrong about ingredients, it is a painful mistake for her.

“We just want it to be easier in Indiana to go out to eat,” Jenna said.She hopes to bring awareness to her issue first locally, then at state and national levels.

To bring awareness about these issues, Jenna will host an event at the Pittsburgh Pirates game Sept. 27 at PNC Park. There will be a gluten-free tailgate party before the game and on-field recognition of Jenna’s cause.

She has partnered with The Gluten Intolerance Group and the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness for her platform and events.

A portion of the ticket sales will benefit the groups.

Locally, there will be an event at Benjamin’s, one of a few restaurants in the Indiana area to cater to those who cannot have gluten, Jenna said. The event is at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 16, and 40 tickets will be available. A gluten-free menu will be offered. For more information, visit Jenna’s blog at

Jenna’s selection as Miss Indiana International 2010 was in part based on her education. A recent graduate of Penn State, Jenna majored in advertising, French and international studies, with a minor in international arts.

“I was a little bit of an overachiever,” Jenna said.

She also completed three internships and studied abroad in France. She also worked for the Daily Collegian. She is looking into going to law school next fall.

She is a fifth-generation graduate of Indiana Area High School.

Jenna believes that pageants sometimes get a stigma. But after participating, she disagrees.

“It really helps you gain confidence,” she said.


**The Dinner will be held on Saturday, October 17. More information will be available at the end of the week.**

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One thought on “Featured Article in the Indiana Gazette”

  1. Every May is Celiac Disease Awareness Month. Organizations, such as yourself have been the catalyst for such high awareness, but as you know this can not be the only time we think of this disease. is dedicated to spreading the awareness for the Celiac Disease, causes, preventions, symptoms, and of course treatments. Through our disease profiles we have been able to work with several elite non-profit organizations. Now we want to work with you. If you could, please list us as a resource or host our social book mark button, it would be much appreciated. Let's create a medical breakthrough, through established awareness.If you want more information on that please email me back with the subject line as your URL.

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