MADISON — Last weekend a crowd gathered at Hammonasset Beach State Park with one common goal: to find a cure for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation’s Connecticut chapter hosted its annual Take Steps Shoreline Walk to raise money for research into inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s. The walk raised more than $10,000.
This year, the chapter named 11-year-old North Haven native Emelia Brandi as its pediatric hero. Brandi spoke to youngsters at the event who struggle with inflammatory bowel diseases and read a speech before the walk kicked off.
“To be honest, I think everyone here who has Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis is a hero for fighting through a tough time,” Brandi said.
The youngster went on to talk about her own fight with ulcerative colitis. Diagnosed in the first grade, Brandi remembers not feeling herself. She was out of school often and couldn’t even play the sports she enjoyed.
After years of doctor’s visits, and finding the right medication, Brandi is back to doing the things she loves. This includes playing travel hockey and softball, and watersports, such as paddleboarding, wakeboarding and waterskiing. She is even learning how to surf.
“Emelia made a point to introduce herself to a couple of the kids today,” said Brandi’s mother, Sarah. “She introduced herself to one little girl in particular who isn’t feeling very well and the little girl was so happy to meet her. It was really sweet.”
Ulcerative colitis is one of two main inflammatory bowel diseases – the other being Crohn’s disease – effecting one in 200 Americans, according to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation.
Ulcerative colitis causes inflammation in the colon or large intestine whereas Crohn’s typically targets the colon or the last part of the small intestine, according to the Mayo Clinic. Symptoms can include abdominal and rectal pain, diarrhea, fatigue and weight loss.
The Take Steps Shoreline Walk event also included face-painting, balloon animals, sack races, music and booths set up by Yale-New Haven Hospital and various pharmaceutical representatives.
Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation’s Connecticut chapter took a moment to recognize those in attendance who had Crohn’s or colitis, having them stand next to a sign acknowledging how many years they’ve lived with inflammatory bowel disease.
“The community coming together, the camaraderie and really building up the strength and courage our patients deserve and need is really important. Also, finding a cure for these diseases,” said Alyssa Anderson, manager of the walk. “I see it on the horizon and I want to be a part of that.”