Pie Face Challenge started by Mass. native raises awareness for gastroparesis - Metro US

Pie Face Challenge started by Mass. native raises awareness for gastroparesis

As you’re home for the holidays this year, considering pieing your family and friends in the face. After all, it’s for a good cause.

The idea comes from Andrew Belliveau, a 20-year-old Lynn native who is currently a junior at Elms College in Chicopee.

Belliveau created the Gastroparesis Pie Face Challenge as a way to raise awareness and research donations for his condition.

“Gastroparesis is essentially a paralyzed stomach, meaning that you can’t digest food or absorb any nutrients,” he said. “I like to say it’s much more than that, though, because it’s [also about] not socializing, being isolated from others, you’re always starving and having to force yourself to eat knowing that it’s going to come up eventually.”

Belliveau was diagnosed at 10 years old, afflicted with constant nausea and sometimes vomiting up to 15 times a day. He would often have to leave school early, he said, but with the help of his family, he persevered through the worst.

There’s currently no cure for gastroparesis, or a lot of attention around it. Belliveau thinks not enough people understand the condition or what people with it go through.

“It’s such an invisible condition, as I like to say, because you kind of present normally on the outside, but inside it’s a totally different ballgame,” he said. “You can’t physically see someone feeling nauseous.”

To help fuel that awareness, knowledge and research money in hopes of a cure, Belliveau started the Gastroparesis Pie Face Challenge, inspired by the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and the viral Hasbro game Pie Face.

Like ALS, gastroparesis is a rare condition, but it’s still more common than the nervous system disease. Raising awareness, Belliveau said, may even help people realize that they suffer from gastroparesis, which affects fewer than 200,000 people in the United States each year (ALS affects fewer than 20,000).

To join the challenge, all you have to do is record yourself smashing a pie tin full of whipped cream into your face (or a loved one’s), challenge others, upload it to social media and then make a donation to G-PACT, a nonprofit that stands for Gastroparesis Patient Association for Cures and Treatments.

Fortunately, Belliveau’s own symptoms have been under control since he received a gastric stimulator in 2012, which he described as “a pacemaker for your stomach.” Still, he’s urging people to get pied for the cause — so far, he’s raised $5,000 for G-PACT. 

Around this time last year, Boston Red Sox pitcher David Price completed the challenge, spurring other players to take it on as well. That was a notable moment for Belliveau, and something he says he’ll always be grateful for, but it was just as rewarding seeing his own family get pied.

“At first, it took a lot of convincing,” he said, but eventually, they all took part. “My parents and my sister, they’ve supported me throughout being sick and continue to push me to live a normal life. This is just my way of thanking them for all the hard work that they did, and trying to inspire others to do the same.”

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