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State College Team Forming for 'Take Steps' Walk

by and on August 21, 2013 7:45 AM

Today there’s no cure for Crohn’s disease, which is why one local woman will walk this fall to raise awareness and funds for an illness that has affected her family for more than a decade.

State College resident Heather Baumgarten is forming a local team to participate in Altoona’s Take Steps for Crohn’s & Colitis Walk Sept. 29 at Dell Delight Legion Park. Hosted by the Western Pennsylvania/West Virginia chapter of The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America, the walk begins at 4:30 p.m. Check-in and the festival start at 3:30 p.m.

Nationally a fundraiser for The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America, “Take Steps, Be Heard for Crohn’s & Colitis” raises awareness for the more than 1.4 million American adults and children affected by digestive diseases like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Funds raised through Take Steps walks help support patient programs, enhance professional education efforts and propels research for cures, according to CCFA’s website.

A cause close to home

Baumgarten’s son Cory was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in his small bowel when he was 12 years old. Since then he has undergone surgery and has been on numerous medications, she said.

“He’s always been stoic about it,” Baumgarten said.

At 18, Cory had a resection surgery in which doctors removed part of his small bowel and reconnected his colon. Despite the surgery, the Crohn’s returned six months later, which, unfortunately was expected, she said.

Cory may face more surgery later in life, Baumgarten said, which could pose its own set of issues. Those who receive multiple surgeries in the small bowel could suffer other health problems as a result, such as malnutrition. Cory already suffers from bone loss, she said.

Today, Cory is 26 and living in California, Baumgarten said. However, the illness will always be a part of her son’s life.

 “(I’m) very, very thankful he’s in a place he’s doing well with his disease,” she said.

Currently there is no cure for Crohn’s disease. But Baumgarten wants to do everything she can to change that. So she’s starting with the Take Steps walk.

 “We need to find a cure,” she said.

Baumgarten completed the Take Steps walk in Altoona by herself two years ago, but this year wants to spread the word and recruit participants.

“This year I’m really trying to get a team together from State College,” she said.

Baumgarten believes in the importance of raising awareness about how the disease affects people on a personal level.

 “For me as a mother, I want my son and grandchildren to never face this disease,” she said.

Crohn’s disease, Baumgarten said, impacts a person’s career choice and what type of health insurance they choose, among other things.

“Not to mention it interrupts your life,” she said. “It’s always in the back of (Cory’s) mind.”

When she walks in September she hopes to increase the quality of life for people with Inflammatory Bowel Disease, she said.

Taking steps

This year marks the third year the Take Steps walk will be hosted in Altoona. Nationwide it is held in more than 120 cities, according to Lori McCann, Take Steps walk manager for CCFA’s Western Pennsylvania/West Virginia chapter.

“Participants raise funds and awareness throughout the year and come together to celebrate the steps that have been taken toward a cure,” she said.

Roughly 200 people attend the walk each year, McCann said, but the hope is to continue to grow over the next few years.

Last year $18,213 was raised. This year’s goal is $22,400, McCann said.

Money raised from the walk is used both locally and nationally, she said.

“The money that is raised is used to provide research, support and education services for patients and doctors alike,” McCann said.

This includes support groups and educational seminars on a local level, and research dollars both locally and nationally.

 “I believe that the walk not only provides much needed funding to support patients and their families, but that it is also important to raise awareness of the disease so that the public will have a better understanding of what patients go through who are affected by these diseases on a daily basis, and how it affects their lives and (those) of their loved ones,” she said.

“In general people do not realize the severity of these diseases and the toll that it takes on the body of those who are affected,” McCann said. “It can be very painful and can affect their work life, their schooling, their relationships … and at times it can be embarrassing. The most severe cases can also be life threatening. It affects both children and adults.”

Fundraising is not a requirement to participate in the walk, but it is encouraged. A minimal donation of $25 per person is suggested, McCann said.

“We hope that participants will, however, fundraise to the best of their abilities in order to help us get closer to our mission of finding a cure for Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis,” she said.

Signs and symptoms of Crohn’s disease, which can affect any part of the GI tract, vary from patient to paint and include: persistent diarrhea, rectal bleeding, urgent need to move bowels, abdominal cramps and pain and constipation. General symptoms that may also be associated with IBD include fever, weight loss, loss of appetite and fatigue, according to CCFA’s website.

While Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the Gastrointestinal Tract, ulcerative colitis affects only the colon. Additionally, Crohn’s disease can affect all layers of the bowel wall, while ulcerative colitis only affects the lining of the colon, according to the website.

Those interested in joining Baumgarten’s team may call her at (814) 404-4470. For more information on the Altoona Take Steps walk, email McCann at The Western PA/West VA chapter of CCFA hosts various other walks, including the Erie Take Steps walk on Sept. 22, and the Pittsburgh and Morgantown walks, which take place in June. To register for a walk click HERE

Click HERE for more information about CCFA.


WHAT: Altoona Take Steps for Crohn’s & Colitis Walk, a fundraiser for The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America

WHEN: Events begin at 3:30 p.m. on Sept. 29

WHERE: Dell Delight Legion Park in Altoona

This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.

Staff Writer at The Centre County Gazette
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