Lindsey Freed, right, of Linwood, with mom Debra Freed, stays upbeat in spite of living with an auto immune disorder that makes eating painful, and a bone disorder that resulted in a fractured hip last year, for which she will soon have surgery.

Linwood's Lindsey Freed, 15, has never known what it's like to really enjoy a meal.

A freshman at Mainland Regional High School, she has a rare autoimmune disease called eosinophilic esophagitis, which causes the body to attack itself in the presence of food proteins, said her mother, Debra Freed.

"The throat can close up. It's severe," Debra Freed said. "At one point, she was strictly on a feeding tube."

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After years of Lindsey gagging and having pain while eating, Debra said the family moved from Florida to South Jersey, and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia diagnosed Lindsey when she was 8.

"She really is my hero," said her mother, adding Lindsey also was diagnosed with a bone disorder after fracturing her hip in a fall last year. She has missed about 50 days of school each of the past two years, and cannot participate in sports.

"She has a lot of strikes against her, but she wakes up every day with a smile on her face," her mother said.

Lindsey, who has some developmental delays, said she wishes more people understood her esophageal disease.

The food that's easiest on her body is potato chips, Lindsey said, but she can only eat after taking a steroid cocktail. She gets a lot of support from an online group of teenagers who have the disease, she said.

"We mostly talk about the foods we eat, or support each other," Lindsey said. "It helps me know it's not just me that has it."

Debra and husband, Robert, also are the parents of Carrie, 13; and Zachary, 8, who do not have the disorder. Debra holds a fundraiser for eosinophilic esphagitis research each November, raising about $7,000 per year. The third annual Shop for a Cure, with high-end gifts, jewelry and clothing, will be held at the Freed home 7 p.m. to midnight Nov. 14. For more information, call 954-309-3517.

Scholarship recipients

Lillian Hussong, of Absecon; Kathleen Tabasso, of Margate; and Charles Weisbecker, of Egg Harbor City, have won 2013 Joseph Berkman and Michael & Sarah Chipkin Holocaust Award scholarships for study toward a Master of Arts in Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Richard Stockton College.

Other recipients are: Joshua Kalb, of Mantua, Gloucester County; Sarah Stout, of Penns Grove, Salem County; and Laurie Garcia, of San Marcos, Texas.

Nan and Donald Berkman, of Margate, established the awards. Donald Berkman's mother, Sarah Chipkin, hid with him in the woods of Lithuania during World War II to escape the concentration camp. Both survived, but his father, Joseph Berkman, was killed. After the war, Sarah married another survivor, Michael Chipkin.

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