A Day of Many Firsts

The Bite for the Fight event in Phoenixville was the first time I contributed to a fundraising event as a business sponsor. It was an honor to participate in the very first Bite for the Fight event, marking the sad loss of a beautiful young lady, Makenna Massi, one year ago. I learned about the Massi family’s Fight On Makenna foundation through my cousin, Nancy, as she works with Makenna’s father at Comcast.

With my cousin Nancy Maguire and Chef Robert Irvine

From the moment we arrived, it was clear that every detail of this event was addressed with expertise. We were greeted and welcomed by Veterans and Owen J. Roberts students when we arrived at the Kimberton Fair Grounds. Event sponsors and VIP ticket holders were admitted an hour before general admission ticket holders, and my group of four raved about having early admission to the event. It allowed us time to chat with the chefs, friends, family and other attendees. Crowd size increased noticeably when the general admission ticket holders arrived. As an experienced project manager, I must say that the entire event was beautifully orchestrated. The flow of attendees was masterfully designed through the Silent Auction, competing restaurateurs, breweries, wineries, distilleries, and cafes. Saturday was a picture-perfect, sunny and 77-degree day which only enhanced our experience as we mingled.

Susan Reiser, known as the Cloud Nine Painter, created a beautiful painting in honor of Makenna’s spirit

Makenna’s parents created a beautiful video tribute to their daughter that broke our hearts. I find the Massi family to be remarkable in the way they invited our community to share in Makenna’s memory by sharing their loss with us. The Fight On Makenna foundation’s mission is helping kids and families facing pediatric cancer. The sacred space created by Makenna’s family and friends was palpable. Although a close family member of mine was diagnosed with pediatric cancer years ago (and the young person remains well, thankfully), I was not aware of the extensive pediatric cancer community. I can’t imagine a more important time in a parent’s life to have access to a supportive community than when their child receives a cancer diagnosis.

The Bite for the Fight event created a new and deeper level of awareness for me of the talent and support available in Phoenixville and Chester County. In some ways, I felt like I was meeting my community for the first time. As you may already know, I am gluten-free due to Celiac disease and have food allergies. It’s an understatement to say that it’s challenging to find a new restaurant, so I tend to stick with places I know are safe. I never expected that I would be able to eat at the Bite for the Fight event, so like most people with Celiac, I ate before the event. Much to my surprise, there were several gluten-free and food allergy-friendly options.

With my husband, Jules and some of the Eagles cheerleaders

For many people with Celiac, it’s not enough to know that a restaurant offers gluten-free options. We need to develop trust with the restaurant. It is much easier when we have recommendations from other people with Celiac or have an opportunity to speak with the chefs that helps us develop confidence that we can eat safely. I am so excited about what I learned and to share this information with all of you, so here are some highlights:

Liberty Union Bar & Grill, owned by Steven Schwenk has both gluten-free and vegan menus. They have a dedicated fryer, and people rave about their gluten-free tater tots. It’s the small things in life that make a person with Celiac jump for joy, and freedom from cross-contamination is one of them.

After learning about Liberty Union, Melinda Arcara introduced herself. She is the co-branch manager of the Gluten Intolerance Group of Chester County and author of 3 Steps To Gluten-Free Living. In the short time chatting with Melinda, she shared all of this information and recommended a wonderful looking place in Malvern; the A&M Factory.

We had a wonderful conversation with the executive chef and general manager, John Sakos, from the Great American Pub. He served an unbelievably delicious peanut butter mousse that was vegan and gluten-free. It was so remarkable that I had two servings!

Thank you again to the Massi family for opening our hearts on Saturday and reintroducing us to our amazing local community. I am tremendously grateful to you for sharing your life with us and helping me continue to learn and grow.

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