Making a Difference with Dressing
Receiving a chronic illness diagnosis at age nine was devastating for Maddie Plauche. But in the five years since, she has used that experience to make wonderful things happen for others.
Now 14 and an eighth grader at STEM Magnet Academy, Maddie continues to deal with ulcerative colitis (UC), an inflammatory bowel disease that causes great pain and requires almost constant access to a bathroom. “She is a master of disguise and hides her pain very well,” says Brent Plauche, Maddie’s father. Maddie says she has several friends who didn’t know anything was wrong until she told them.
Maddie has dealt with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following her diagnosis. “I was severely in a PTSD state,” she says. “I really couldn’t do anything. I lost two years of my childhood that I can never get back.”
Thankfully, Maddie learned about the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation’s (CCF) Camp Oasis, specifically for kids with UC and similar conditions. Her parents offered to pay for it, but Maddie wanted to earn the money herself and decided to sell a special salad dressing her dad makes. Maddie’s Food Creations was born, and she even designed the logo with the purple CCF ribbon in place of the “A” in her name.
“At first, we kind of figured this is just because Maddie’s sick and everyone’s being nice, but she actually raised enough money to send herself to camp,” Brent says. The business continues to thrive, and her dressings are sold on her website and in stores as far away as Alaska and New York.
The business is a family affair with her mom, Tammy, and her grandparents helping make and package the product. Brent says they will have to find a cold packer as demand expands. As the creator of a certified Louisiana product, Maddie has been invited to Certified Louisiana Day at the state capitol where she will share her story with legislators and provide salads for the legislators’ lunches.
That first trip to Camp Oasis in Georgia was soon after Maddie’s diagnosis. “Camp Oasis is a camp where you get to meet kids just like you,” she says. “Once you get there, it’s just amazing how it can change you so much and help you feel not alone.”
Maddie loved camp so much that she wanted to send others as well. She began Maddie’s Miracles, a nonprofit funded in part by her business, and she’s been able to send four other campers so far.
The family does a lot of fundraising beyond dressing sales, including hosting a craft show in New Roads on June 1. “We try not to go around and beg for money, but we wanted to bring awareness of Crohn’s and Colitis,” Brent says.
Maddie plans to continue her business through high school and beyond. Her mental health journey has inspired her to want to study psychology in college, and she’s interested in interior design.
“Especially with chronic illnesses like this, it’s hard to come out because by appearances, you can’t tell anything is wrong,” Maddie says. “But once you’re putting yourself out there, it makes it a lot easier for others to come out—that they know it’s OK.” ■