Reflecting on Ed Snider's health & fitness legacy

AMBLER, Pa. (WPVI) -- Ed Snider is being remembered today for his impact in sports.

But he also left a legacy in this area's health and fitness for kids and adults.

Over the past decade, thousands of kids in hundreds of schools, many in the inner city, improved their fitness and learned life skills through the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation.

In 2013, Scott Tharp, CEO of the Foundation told us, "The important thing in everything we do is encouraging our children to make good choices in life, whether it be in the classroom or in front of the refrigerator."

For Kaseir Archie, it led to a national platform, as a youth advisor for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, which works on curbing child obesity and showing children how to live healthier.

"Your health is a lot more important than you really think it is," Archie told us at the time.

For the past few years, doctors from Temple University Health have volunteered for the Foundation, giving medical screenings to the young players.

Those screenings helped most parents breathe easier, though it also caught serious, undiagnosed medical problems.

"We have picked up hypertension in young children, which is very unusual, we picked up scoliosis," said Dr. Michael Weinik at the 2014 screenings.

When problems were detected, there was follow-up care.

Nine years earlier, it was Snider's own health in the spotlight.

In an interview with Action News, he first publicly revealed his long struggle with celiac disease - the inability to digest wheat and anything with gluten.

He suffered, undiagnosed for more than 20 years.

"I have had it since I was a young man, but I didn't know it," he told us.

Alice Bast, the CEO of the Beyond Celiac advocacy group, had encouraged Snider to speak out then.
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Alice Bast, the CEO of the Beyond Celiac advocacy group.

She says dozens of people have told her Snider's story inspired them to get tested for celiac.

And thanks to those tests, they are living healthier, gluten-free.

Bast says Snider was there for the cause of celiac awareness from the beginning.

"He was on my board, he was my first donor, he was my mentor, and he was my friend," says Bast.

Snider also grasped the need to improve access to gluten-free foods, particularly in underserved areas.

"I said Ed, I envision a world where gluten-free products will become mainstream. And he said, I believe in your vision, I'm going to support you. and we've taken quite journey together - he's been quite a mentor," she recalls.

Dr. Anthony J. DiMarino, Jr., the Director of the Jefferson Celiac Center, wasn't involved in Mr. Snider's healthcare.

But he was impressed by his commitment and his understanding of the importance of celiac disease awareness.

"One percent of the population has Celiac, but 80% of those people are currently not diagnosed. For every one person with Celiac Disease, there are probably 6-8 who have gluten sensitivity. Because of Mr. Snider's efforts, now, at the Wells Fargo Center, Citizen Bank Park, and Lincoln Financial Field - all three places have gluten free options for spectators," Dr. DiMarino said.

"That is because of him and other Celiac awareness groups," he added.

Bast says a dozen years of work has really paid off for those with Celiac Disease in Philadelphia.

Undiagnosed cases have dropped 14%.

"We say we are the number 1 gluten-free friendly city in the United States, and that's thanks to the work of Ed Snider and Beyond Celiac Disease," says Bast.

That's what Snider would have wanted - Number One.
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