Friday, March 4, 2016

Gluten-Free for Life Expo - my interview :-)

Hello Carolanne,  The interview has been posted at
Thanks for the interview and good luck with the Expo.
Keep me up to date on any changes with the Expo.  Thanks, Warren

Interview with Carolanne LeBlanc, Volunteer Coordinator for the Gluten-Free for Life Expo to be held on the 24th of March 2012 in St Petersburg, Florida

Monday:  Hello Carolanne, I understand you are starting the new Gluten-Free for Life Expo dedicated to Celiac Disease and the Gluten-Free Lifestyle. Please tell us a little bit about yourself and the Expo.

Carolanne:  My name is Carolanne LeBlanc and I’m the Volunteer Coordinator for the Gluten-Free for Life Expo and the Moderator for the Gluten-Intolerance Support Group of Largo, Florida.  The Support Group and I came up with a plan to sponsor our own Expo for the Celiac Disease and Gluten-Intolerance community. We expect this to be a major event in this state with nearly 100 manufacturers, medical professionals, distributors, service providers and retailers available to demonstrate and speak on the latest issues regarding Celiac Disease and the Gluten-Free Lifestyle. Both Vendors & Speakers will have the opportunity to be exposed to people not only from Tampa Bay but across the state of Florida as well. Many attendees will be newly diagnosed Celiacs and/or persons with additional food allergies. This will be a fantastic opportunity to offer products, information, and services to consumers who may not be aware of what is available.

Monday:  What are the Highlights that Visitors to the Expo will Experience?

Carolanne:  This is going to be an Educational, Experiential Expo for the general public, food industry, and health professionals. Aside from the chance to taste and purchase many Gluten-Free products, we’ll be having Professional Speakers throughout the day. We’ll have specially designated ‘Chat Rooms’ were people can meet with others, ask questions, offer advice and have the opportunity to talk with other Support Organizations that work together with the Gluten-Free Community.  We’ll have several Health Professionals specializing in different areas available to offer their services and answer questions.

Our goal is to help those within the Gluten-Free Community gain knowledge, research, and resources while providing opportunities for Families with related diseases to bond with one another. This is our effort to increase the awareness and diagnosis of Celiac Disease and help those with Gluten-Intolerance.

Monday:  Tell us about what life experiences with Celiac Disease lead to the creation of the Expo.

Carolanne:  I’m what’s commonly known as an ‘undiagnosed’ Celiac. When I was diagnosed with wheat allergies nearly twenty-five years ago, I was devastated. That was an enormous adjustment for me because bread was a huge staple in my daily routine. And 25 years ago there was no easy way to know what products contained wheat. But I managed and I felt a little better so that was good enough for me. Wheat was out of my daily routine.

Then nearly ten years ago a co-worker suggested I look into Celiac Disease. My immediate response was that I couldn’t have a Disease! Not that! So for a while longer denial became my best friend. But curiosity finally led me to the Internet and I couldn’t help doing a bit of research. When it all sounded so familiar, that was the scary part. So after doing the research, and a lot of soul searching, I had no choice but to start on the Gluten-Free Lifestyle and I’ve never looked back. I feel great, I’m healthier than I’ve ever been and right now the diagnosis is no longer important for me. I feel good.

Monday:  For people new to Celiac Disease please explain what it is.

Carolanne:  Celiac Disease is not an allergy. It is a digestive disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. People who have celiac disease cannot tolerate gluten, a protein in wheat, rye, and barley. Gluten is found mainly in foods but may also be found in everyday products such as medicines, vitamins, and lip balms.

It’s a disease that when left untreated can leave a person feeling sick and miserable their entire life. Not only can it cause many mysterious unhealthy symptoms, it can eventually create any number of other debilitating diseases that will ultimately take your life away. It’s not a pretty picture, but sugarcoating the facts won’t make them any easier to swallow. The only known cure is eating Gluten-Free for the rest of your life. Embarking on a Gluten-Free Lifestyle is a lifetime commitment to healthy living. It’s a tough decision to make, and it can be an even tougher promise to keep.

Other facts about Celiac Disease:
·       Celiac Disease runs in Families
·       Having only one person with Gluten-Intolerance can affect the whole Family
·       Celiac Disease/Gluten-Intolerance can create or affect an entire Family of other diseases such as Arthritis, Autism, Cancer, Depression, Diabetes, Infertility, Migraine, and many more.

Monday:  What were some of your major challenges related to having Celiac Disease?

Carolanne:  The hardest thing through it all wasn’t having to give up all my favorite foods, it was not having anyone to talk to. For years there was no one. Of course I had support from my family and friends, but they had no real understanding of what I was going through. And occasionally even my family and friends would tell me I was crazy or that it was all in my head. I felt totally alone. That was hard. In all those years I never met a single soul who was going through the same thing that I was, someone who totally understood.

Eventually, the Internet became my only contact with others with Celiac or Gluten-Intolerance. I’ll never forget the first time, five years ago, when I walked into a room full of Celiacs and Gluten-Intolerant people. I had been invited to tell them about my new online Yahoo Group, Gluten-Free in Florida. There were 30-40 people, all sitting in the same room, eager to hear what I had to say. I nearly burst into tears. I was so excited that I totally forgot what I had come to talk about and just started chatting with everyone. I wasn’t alone any more. For the first time in my life I was actually standing face to face with people who understood what I was going through. It was an incredible feeling.

And once I had attended my first Gluten-Free Expo, I knew that was something I just had to make available for others. My first Expo was such an eye-opener. Over 3.000 people attended, and I stood there in the middle of the hall simply overwhelmed. All those people to talk to!!

So I got together with The Gluten-Intolerance Support Group of Largo, Florida and we all did some brainstorming to come up with a plan to sponsor our own Expo.  This was going to be our first attempt at something like this, and it turned out to be such a huge project that we hired a Special Events Coordinator named Nikki Everett from Echo Event Solutions ( to help pull things together. We want our Expo to be unique and something we can continue to do for years to come. 

Monday:  Tell us about how the Expo will benefit people with Celiac Disease and Gluten-Intolerance?

Carolanne:  We anticipate between 1,200-1,500 attendees coming not only from the Celiac Community but from the general community, as well as local businesses. This is a one-of-a-kind Expo that offers great information about overcoming the challenges of eating gluten free and tips on living life to its fullest.

In addition, all money raised through Donations & Raffles will be used for the education and assistance of Florida children living with Celiac Disease and Gluten-Intolerance. We'll also be accepting donations of Non-Perishable Gluten-Free Foods to be donated to local Food Banks to assist Families with Gluten-Free needs.

Monday:  What is one of your major challenges in making the Expo helpful to the medical community?

Carolanne:  Our challenge currently is to find a local Educational Hospital willing to sponsor our Expo so that Nurses, Doctors, and Medical Professionals who attend can receive Continuing Education Credits for their Licensing requirements.  One of our goals is to get the Medical Community involved and educated so that people living with Celiac Disease and Gluten-Intolerance can receive quality treatment and advice.

Monday:   Where can people get more information about you and the Expo?

Carolanne:  They can contact me any number of ways:

Carolanne Le Blanc
Meeting:  4th Saturday of every month except December
Imperial Palms, East Clubhouse, 101 Imperial Palm Drive, Largo, Florida 33771

Monday:  Thank you Carolanne for being my guest today and helping spread the word about Celiac Disease and the Gluten-Free Lifestyle. We all look forward to visiting the Gluten-Free for Life Expo on March 24th, 2012 at the St Pete Coliseum, 535 Fourth Avenue N, St Petersburg, FL 33701

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