Celiacs cannot eat gluten, a protein particle found in wheat, barley, rye and all of their derivatives.
In conjunction with the Phillies, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) sold over 500 tickets for Monday night's game against the Cubs, raising over $2,000. Aramark set up a stand of gluten-free food items behind the section, including hot dogs, cheeseburgers, chicken fingers, Redridge beer and Woodchuck draft cider.
Most of these are offered every night at select locations throughout Citizens Bank Park, which for three consecutive years has been named the No. 1 vegetarian ballpark by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
"So many parents and concerned fans give me a call and want to see what's available to them," said David Lippman, director of concessions for Aramark. "A lot of folks were just thrilled that they have something here. They can come here, enjoy their team and eat something. "
Oz Ostrofsky -- whose wife, Nany Lozoff, has celiac disease and whose daughter is gluten-intolerant -- was selected to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
"It's an honor to be nominated by the NFCA and it's great to be on the field with the World [Series] champions," said Ostrofsky, a former chef who has worked to increase the number of gluten-free items in Philadelphia restaurants. "It's about making it easy for everyone. So no one's 'special needs,' no one has to go out of their way."
Indeed, awareness was the No. 1 objective of Monday's charity event, since 97 percent of celiacs are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. Celiacs who, unaware of their condition, continue to eat products with gluten suffer nutritional problems, especially anemia; reproductive disorders, which affects half of all women with celiac disease; insufficient growth in children; reduced bone density; neurological disorders; and some cancers. Although research is under way, there is currently no cure or vaccine; the only treatment is a lifelong gluten-free diet.
"How could you get more awareness than to be with the Phillies?" said Nancy Ginter, NFCA director of operations. "It's a great forum, and everybody's watching the Phillies. ... What we want to engender is instead of saying, 'Oh my God, I've got celiac disease, and this will be horrible,' to say, 'No, it's great. Now you know what's wrong with you.'"
More information on gluten-free options at Citizens Bank Park can be found here.
More information on celiac disease can be found here.
David Gurian-Peck is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.