Club Spotlight: ORCA, More than just a whale

ORCA takes on a few different meanings when referring to the club here at Mines. Not only does the acronym stand for Organization Redefining Celiac Awareness, but it also represents the spirit animal of Jay Williams, ORCA’s President and Founder who explains that the club is “just getting our feet off the ground.” ORCA is a brand new club on the Mines campus as it just recently held its first meeting was just this past October.

The main purpose of ORCA is to increase the general awareness of food-related diseases such as celiac. “We didn’t put ‘awareness’ in [the acronym] for nothing,” joked Marty Droze, Secretary of ORCA. People with celiac disease are intolerant of gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. As gluten is found in many types of food, it is hard for students diagnosed with celiac to find meal options here on campus. Williams knows exactly what this feels like because he was recently diagnosed with celiac. “Right now there aren’t any gluten-free options at Digger Den or Juice Lab…I literally can’t have anything there.” As a result, ORCA is working closely with Aramark to provide more food options for students with celiac or any other type of food intolerance. “That’s the main goal, to provide more options for the campus,” Williams emphasized. “They’re doing a really good job, and we’re just going to push that and try to get more and more stuff available.”

As odd as it sounds, each ORCA meeting begin with coloring. “It’s kind of like an icebreaker-type deal,” Williams said. Droze continued, “One day I had a geology lab where we had to color in a map, so I happened to have my Crayola-24 on me. I brought it to the meeting, and Jay and I just started drawing.” After the coloring, the ORCA meetings begin. “As we go through we talk about upcoming events and designate who will do what to make the rest of it happen,” said Williams.

“Our big event that we’re working on right now is a bake sale—gluten-free,” Droze explained. Williams chimed in as well, saying that “the purpose of the bake sale is to not only fundraise for our organization but also to promote the overall awareness of celiac. We figured that’d be a good way to do it and let people know that gluten-free food tastes good because it can. And it’s really good for you.” The bake sale will be held on November 16th and 17th in the Student Center outside of the Slate Café.

Next semester, Williams is hoping to bring in a speaker from the Celiac Sprue Association of Denver. “We’re going to have a speaker come in and just give an informative presentation on the development of celiac disease in recent times,” he said. This will give students a chance to learn more about celiac as well as develop interest in ORCA.

The ORCA executive board has a variety of reasons for supporting the group. “I know a couple people that have celiac disease…so it kind of struck a chord with me when I found out Jay was starting a club,” Droze said. “Every other week I meet somebody or somebody who has a family member that has celiac and…it’s been something that has been a little difficult to overcome for them, so it seems good to raise awareness,” commented Jacob Herzog, Vice President of ORCA. “Even if you don’t know anybody who has celiac, it’s healthier style living.” After eating gluten-free foods, “you just feel better,” he adds. Chad McKenna, Treasurer of ORCA, found that eating gluten-free is much healthier than other alternatives. “I’ve really gotten serious about eating healthy, and that was the best option I found.”

Although it has just started up, ORCA has great potential to make a big difference on our campus. You can help support celiac awareness by coming to the bake sale or simply coloring a picture with ORCA.
For more information, email Jay Williams at

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