Craig Pinto: Kicking 4 Celiac
It’s not every day that I get to talk to a Guinness World Record holder. In fact, I’d say it’s a first. And luckily the world records Craig Pinto set are not something that make me queasy (like sticking the most needles through his skin or having the most plastic surgery to look like a cat). No, Pinto’s world records are more than that – they’re inspiring and impressive.
In 2010, Craig Pinto set the world record for kicking the most 40-yard field goals in a 12-hour period – 717 field goals to be exact! He called the event “Kicking 4 Celiac” and used it as a way to raise money for the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University.
“I really decided to myself that I wanted to make it a point to use [football as a platform to bring awareness to celiac disease,” Pinto said. “For me it was more of a fitness thing, because I have celiac disease and I wanted to show that you can go through this day-long, physical, punishing type of thing and get through it.”
Then, in 2011, he started the Kicking 4 Celiac Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising celiac disease education and awareness.
He decided to try for a second world record in order to bring attention to his new organization. He set the world record for kicking the most 40-yard field goals in a 24-hour period. In fact, Pinto managed to beat that allotted time frame by 6 hours, kicking 1,000 field goals in just 18 hours. And that record was met despite Pinto having a tear in his hip labrum (the cartilage that protects the hip socket).
“That was probably the most physically grueling thing I’ve ever gone through,” Pinto said. “I wanted to really make it a mirror image of what having daily celiac might be.”
The event garnered much-deserved recognition as well as funding for programs.
The organization started a program called Cleats 4 Kids, which collects and donates cleats to children in underprivileged areas, not only helping to keep the children active but also giving the organization a chance to educate those who may not know much about celiac disease. Kicking 4 Celiac also has a student ambassador program as well as a scholarship program for new college students with celiac disease. The student ambassador program provides students with literature to help them increase celiac awareness and education throughout their schools. The scholarship program awards students with funds to help cover the expense of food, as gluten-free options are not always plentiful in student meal plans on campus. This particular program hits close to home for Pinto.
Pinto was diagnosed with celiac disease 13 years ago as a student at Hofstra University. At the time, few resources for the disease were available and food choices were very limited. Pinto ended up leaving Hofstra to regroup after his diagnosis.
“It was very vague. To myself I thought, ‘what am I in for?’” Pinto said. “I was very cautious of cross contamination and even social stigma, like having to ask for a burger without a bun. For the first couple years, it did affect me socially.”
Pinto no longer feels the same social stigma he did as a college student. Since starting Kicking 4 Celiac, he has become an advocate for celiac awareness and has been recognized by a number of organizations. He received the 2013 President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition Community Leadership Award, and was elected to the 2013 American Football News Hall of Fame. He also received the 2013 Bart Lawson Alumni Award for Public Service from NYU, the school he attended after deciding to return to college.
“I wanted to challenge myself and get back into active life and NYU had always been a dream goal of mine,” Pinto said. “So being recognized now – years after graduating from their undergraduate program – was a thrill for me.”
After all the success that Kicking 4 Celiac and its founder have seen in the past few years, they decided it was time to rebrand the organization as they continue to spread their programs across the country. The organization is now called the National Celiac Disease Society.
“The Kicking 4 Celiac name will stay on as the title name of our Cleats 4 Kids program so we do not lose its identity or where we came from, but with this rebranding we are excited to become more of a national figure,” Pinto said.
“I like to keep it interesting and different and find ways to get people to open their eyes to celiac disease and to the foundation,” Pinto said. “I want my end result to be empowering people to want to work with what they have as far as having celiac disease and empower them to be out there teaching people.”
Whether it’s a world record for field goals or new ways to help those with celiac disease, one thing is certain: Pinto’s awareness efforts are nothing short of inspirational.