Fundraiser will help with IBD research

When my daughter Lisa was a little girl she suffered from lots of tummy aches. Since there did not seem to be any obvious reason for her complaints, I assumed that she was simply malingering and wanted to stay home from school. Even our pediatrician, the late Dr. Martin Calodney who was also our next door neighbor, was puzzled. (Lisa would often make house calls on the doctor.) It was not until she was in her twenties that Lisa was diagnosed by Dr. Bernard Garfinkel with Crohn’s disease which was an unfamiliar ailment to me.

Shortly thereafter in 1982 I received a call from Jeanette Lasky who told me that she and her husband Marshall along with Rae and Sam Grosman were starting an organization to help people with Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, together known as inflammatory bowel diseases or IBD. Both families had children diagnosed with IBD. The organization was called the Mid-America Chapter of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA). Jeanette asked me to write a column about their first meeting and fundraiser which I did. When the column was published I was shocked to learn about all the men, women and children who suffered from IBD, and I learned about this phenomenon first hand. People I hardly knew would cross the street to tell me about their relative with Crohn’s or stop me at a concert or theater or a meeting to confide that they themselves or a family member suffered from IBD.

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Twenty-five years later there is still no cure for Crohn’s or colitis, but thanks to CCFA, both nationally and locally, there is much more awareness of the illness, considerably better treatment, all kinds of support as well as extensive research into the cause and treatment of IBD. Like the 40 chapters across the nation, our Mid-America Chapter’s mission is to cure Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, and to improve the quality of life of children and adults affected by these diseases, some one million in the United States.

To accomplish this goal CCFA must fundraise. On Thursday, Sept. 6 at 11:30 a.m. at the Hilton St. Louis Frontenac the Mid-America Chapter of Missouri, Kansas, Southern Illinois and North Central Arkansas will hold its 4th Annual Women of Hope luncheon. I will be following in the footsteps of Shelley Marglous, last year’s Woman of Hope honoree, as their 2007 Woman of Hope. Why, I asked myself, was I selected to receive this prestigious honor? First of all, I have two daughters with Crohn’s as Leslie was diagnosed recently with the disease. Naturally I would love for research to find a cure and preferably in my lifetime. To raise awareness about IBD and to help the Mid-America Chapter with it’s fundraising, I have written several columns, just as I have also touted a zillion other good causes, maybe even yours, dear reader. In any case it’s a lovely honor and I look forward to seeing many of you at the Woman of Hope luncheon on Sept. 6.

Reservations at $75 per person may be made by sending your check to Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America Mid-America Chapter, 8420 Delmar Blvd. #303, St. Louis, MO 64124 or by calling 314-991-0220.

Dr. Angela Grupas, herself a Crohn’s patient and a noted national communication and motivational speaker, will speak following lunch. I am told that Dr. Grupas is known for her humor, energy and unique presentation style. Thirteen-year-old Julia Katzman, the Chapter’s Youth Ambassador, will also share her thoughts on how she lives with IBD. Committee co-chairs, Marcia Denenholtz and Andrea Cantor, are a mother-daughter team much like Shelley Marglous whose mother, Celeste battled Crohn’s for many years. Megan Lynch of KMOX Radio will be the Honorary Chair and Emcee.

Some folks complained to me about the quality of the invitation to the Women of Hope Luncheon. My response to them was that, instead of spending a bundle on a fancy invitation, CCFA instead invests their funds in research and services. For example, there are support groups where members don’t just sit and cry, but cheer and laugh and share how they cope everyday with this disease and learn what one can eat without causing a major flare up. Then there is Camp Oasis for children ages 8 to 17, a four-day camping experience geared especially for youngsters with IBD who learn from their peers what to expect and how to interact and socialize with their family, friends, classmates and others. This year there are a record 52 campers. The Mid-America Chapter also provides a year round Youth Program that brings young people together at various events to increase their self image and maintain, grow and extend these relationships.

But it is the research that interests me the most. Maybe in the not too distant future I can invite my daughters to dinner, not worry about what to feed them and know they will be well enough to come.