Two years ago, Tommy was diagnosed with Crohn's. The disease put him in constant pain and fatigue; at one point, he took nearly 20 pills a day to manage his symptoms. But instead of letting it get him down, Tommy bounced back with a determination to overcome his illness. After undergoing surgeries and treatment, he returned to school and the activities he loved and went on to become vice president of the Student Government Association and president of the Young Democrats. He organized 2 trips to Mobile, Alabama, to feed the homeless, and he assembled care packages for soldiers overseas. This fall he began his freshman year at Georgetown University where he plans to study international relations or politics.
Lauren has been an active member of the Crohn's community for many years and is a founding member of the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America's (CCFA's) National Youth Council. In addition, she served as a freshman orientation leader, was an English-language tutor to Spanish speakers, and volunteered at soup kitchens and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. She recently spent a semester abroad in Pietermaritzburg and Cape Town, South Africa, where she took classes and completed a month of service work at an elementary school for underprivileged children and at a battered woman's shelter. She is currently studying at Azusa Pacific University (APU) to become a broadcast journalist—a dream she's held since the age of 11.
During her junior year of college at the University of California at Berkeley, Sarah encountered problems when her insurance company wouldn't cover a new medication required to treat her condition. That's when she became determined to pursue her dream of practicing law, to advocate for the chronically ill and those who are unable to afford adequate healthcare. While her fellow classmates on campus had few cares beyond studying for exams and deciding which party to attend, Sarah was struggling to balance doctors' appointments and medical treatments with school, work, and her social life. Following a summer volunteering for the CCFA in San Francisco, she graduated cum laude and took a job as a legal assistant at a law firm where she dealt directly with insurance companies and represented consumers who were injured and faced with situations beyond their control.
When first diagnosed with Crohn’s disease (CD), Peter Birke felt alone and afraid. For a while he struggled to come to terms with his diagnosis, but all that changed when he attended a summer camp for young people living with Crohn’s. The camp had such a profound impact on him that a few years later he returned as a counselor. Since then, Peter has continued to be a leader and advocate for fellow Crohnies. He has also excelled as a teen ambassador for the Wisconsin chapter of the CCFA. In that role, he organizes and speaks at events to help raise awareness and money for CD.
It takes a lot of courage for a student to take 13 Advanced Placement (AP) courses during their high school career. And it takes a lot of hard work to earn high enough marks in those courses to graduate in the top 1% of the senior class. Now, consider how difficult it would be for a student to accomplish this feat while battling CD. Kathleen has accomplished this in addition to committing time and energy to a number of clubs and organizations in her community. Her involvement ranges from serving as treasurer and vice chair on the Youth Council to being a part of an 8-member team of high school students selected by school representatives and city staff to provide the mayor, city council, and city staff with a teen perspective on local issues.
Mary Kate Cash
An award-winning photographer, straight-A student, and standout on the cheerleading team, Mary Kate Cash is about as well rounded as a student can be. She is so successful in her endeavors that many of her peers never realized she was living with CD. In the summer of 2006, Cash traveled to Washington, DC, with her parents to join the CCFA in lobbying Congress for more federal funding for CD research. Mary is also involved in a variety of clubs and organizations ranging from the National Honor Society to leader of the cheerleading squad. Her involvement in so many causes never diminished Mary’s commitment to succeed academically, and she maintained high marks in all her classes.
William has continually demonstrated his drive and motivation to succeed. In high school, he graduated near the top of his class, taking 8 AP courses. As a member of the Delta Epsilon Chi (DECA) student marketing association, he won first place in the state competition and third place in the international DECA competition—the first person in his school to do so. He also made time for more than 180 hours of community service, earning him the President's Volunteer Service Award of Coral Springs, Florida. He accomplished all of this while battling the debilitating symptoms of Crohn's. William has also been honored by the CCFA and has spoken on behalf of the organization to raise money for Crohn's research and care. He is currently pursuing his dream of becoming a civil engineer at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech).
Running is Margo Davis’ passion. She has raced at swift paces throughout her career at Shorewood High School, but she encountered challenges along the way. At age 15, she was diagnosed with CD. Margo ran cross-country all 4 years of high school, but before races her nerves would take over, exacerbating her Crohn’s; the pain and fatigue were not easy to endure. But one race stands out in Margo’s mind as more meaningful and empowering than any other: the 2008 CCFA half marathon. Throughout high school, Margo approached her academics with the same tenacity that she brought to the track—she ranked in the top 1% of her high school class and never failed to complete assignments, despite dealing with the complications of Crohn’s.
Any college athlete will tell you that it can be difficult to balance schoolwork with practices and competitions. For Luci Ferraro, the challenge CD. CD causes a person to lose stamina and strength—symptoms Luci had been experiencing on and off the volleyball court for over a year and a half before she was diagnosed. Determined to remain active in her leadership role as team captain, Luci attended every practice and game, even when she was too weak to play. She also maintained a 4.0 grade point average (GPA), despite extended absences from school.
Abigayle was diagnosed with CD at the age of 10. Growing up with a debilitating illness has taught her to appreciate and value her life in a new, brighter way. While focusing on academics and volunteer work, she finished her first year at Arizona State University with a 4.08 GPA and is well on her way to achieving her ultimate goal: to be a social worker for children with disabilities. Abigayle also excels outside of the classroom—one of her accomplishments includes serving as a youth ambassador for the CCFA. It was Abigayle’s commitment to others, to tolerance, and to academic achievement that made her struggle with Crohn’s stand out.
Since being diagnosed with Crohn's at the age of 12, Alexis has demonstrated her personal determination and love for helping others. In high school, she was valedictorian of her class and won countless academic honors, including Who's Who Among American High School Students, a National Merit Commendation, and an All-American Scholar award. Additionally, President George W. Bush awarded her the Presidential Volunteer Service Gold Medal in recognition of her 300 plus hours of community service. She has also won more than 100 gold, silver, and bronze medals in invitational figure skating competitions. Now at Syracuse University, she is majoring in television, radio, and film and English textual studies and plans to pursue a doctorate in English.
Sarah Helfrich wears many hats these days: mother, student, employee, volunteer, advocate, and Crohn’s patient. Clearly she has a lot on her plate, yet she continues to push to achieve more. She is currently working toward her undergraduate degree at California State University, Fullerton, with plans to earn her master’s degree and then pursue a career as a speech pathologist. Over the years, Sarah has encountered physical and emotional distress as a result of her disease and had numerous surgeries and stints in and out of the hospital. It has posed serious challenges for her as a mother, a student, and a worker, but it has never been enough to stop her from reaching her goals.
Ryan Hussey is a shining example of a well-rounded high school student. Academically driven, Hussey has somehow managed to balance 4 years of swimming and cross-country running with being a lacrosse state champion, on the honor roll, and having several leading roles in local theatrical performances. In addition, his swim team awarded him with the Dave Huss All-Around Nice Guy Award his junior and senior year. Even more remarkable is that Hussey has accomplished so much despite having CD. Ryan also tries to help others cope with CD through his involvement in the CCFA.
Frank Kemper will tell you that earning the title of Eagle Scout, the highest of the Boy Scout rankings, is the accomplishment he is most proud of. He also maintained a near-perfect GPA through high school, volunteered his time to raise money to buy toys for sick children, and played on the golf team. Frank was diagnosed with CD at the age of 12. At one point, he was in the hospital for over 70 days coping with complications from the disease. Since this experience, Kemper set out to collect everything from digital cameras with docking stations to the most popular gadget, a Nintendo Wii, in hopes of entertaining children who have to endure lengthy hospital stays. Kemper also served on the teen advisory council at a local children’s hospital and worked on projects where his feedback as a young patient proved invaluable to the staff.
Kierra Lee is determined to be known throughout her community as a leader and achiever and not as someone who has CD. She has accomplished this through pure grit and determination. Lee’s resume is filled with accomplishments. Having been awarded the Rice Summer Business Institute Outstanding Girl of the Program award, Kierra landed a prestigious summer internship at Merrill Lynch Inc., where she learned about the fundamentals of starting a business. She also spent more than 100 hours helping elderly people use technology, working with inner-city youth, and organizing a blood drive at a Houston blood bank.
After spending her 16th birthday in the hospital with a violent illness that was later diagnosed as CD, Caitlin was inspired by the healthcare professionals who helped her. Two years later, after graduating with honors from Valparaiso High School, Caitlin is attending the Purdue University School of Nursing. Even though she was not officially diagnosed with CD until the age of 16, Caitlin had been struggling with her illness from elementary school. Despite it all, she has had many achievements, including dedicating over 250 hours to a program called Natural Helpers, in which she helped her peers overcome their personal hardships.
Tyler Lundy is an active young man with an impressive list of extracurricular activities that includes playing on various sport teams, being a volunteer fireman, attending nursing school, being on a fellowship committee through his church, and volunteering for numerous organizations. What you might not expect is that he also has aortic stenosis (a heart defect) and CD. Despite Tyler’s health issues, he has been a talented athlete and a remarkable role model for others living with CD. He accomplished this through his various volunteer activities and work at Camp Oasis, a summer camp for children with Crohn’s.
Brianna Moffitt has come a long way since her first year of college. Like many incoming freshman, Brianna was looking forward to college as a clean slate where she could build a new reputation, one that did not involve CD. A change of heart occurred when she met a fellow Crohnie who had never met anyone else with the disease. This made Brianna realize the need for herself and other Crohnies to share their stories and battle the disease together. Since then, Moffit has excelled not only as a leader in the Crohn’s community, but within her own community as well. She has won numerous scholastic and leadership awards including the Girl Scout Gold Award and has volunteered for many organizations including the Painted Turtle Camp, a summer camp for chronically ill children. Brianna is currently studying at Pitzer College to become a psychologist for children and families with chronic and terminal illnesses.
Since being diagnosed with CD 2 years ago, Mashalle has shown drive and inspiration, even in the face of adversity. As an Afghan in post-9/11 America, Mashalle has made a strong connection between what she learns in the classroom and her own personal experiences. She channeled these energies into helping others facing issues of inequality by working with the San Diego chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. She has marched in several Gay Pride parades to raise awareness about gay rights and helped coordinate a kid's zone at her community's multicultural fair to educate young children about the diverse cultures found in San Diego. Mashalle will be the first in her family to go to college when she attends the University of California, Berkeley to study political science and Middle Eastern studies.
Roxanne lives for the thrill of exploring the outdoors and overcoming physical challenges. Whether she is SCUBA diving in deep-sea waters, scaling a mountain, or serving as captain of her varsity tennis team, Roxanne has shown incredible courage. It's no wonder that she doesn't let the physical and emotional challenges of Crohn's stop her, either. Parker excels in her academic and social endeavors as well. She graduated at the top of her class as an AP Scholar with Honor, served as president of the environmental club, and volunteered for 50 hours for the nonprofit organization Save Our Southwest Hills, which fought to preserve the Santa Margarita River Preserve. This fall she will be attending the University of California at Davis to study biological sciences.
Katherine has made the best of her lifestyle with Crohn’s since she was diagnosed at the age of 13. You could say overcoming adversity is a hobby of Katherine’s. In addition to excelling in honors classes despite many hospitalizations and procedures, she has been actively involved in several volunteer programs. One of the many programs that Katherine supports is the CCFA, whose mission is to help people who have these diseases as well as to help their families and friends. Raderstorf sees her CD in a positive light because it has helped her appreciate things that she might otherwise have taken for granted, such as health, food, and—due to long hospital stays—her own bed.
Mona holds a deep passion and intense drive for success. After graduating as valedictorian of her high school class, she went on to earn a 4.0 GPA and a bachelor's degree in molecular environmental biology at the University of California, Berkeley. Mona also works hard outside the classroom. She cofounded Vision for Health (VFH), a nonprofit organization that provides eye care in developing countries. To empower others with Crohn's and Colitis, she is developing a “Scar Calendar” using pictures and biographies of Crohn's patients to celebrate their wounds as a source of strength rather than embarrassment. Mona is currently a second-year medical student at Johns Hopkins University.
For as long as Kristofer Rivers can remember he has dreamed of working in the medical field and helping those who are battling illnesses. Now in his freshman year of college at Wilkes University, he is one step closer to making this dream a reality. The road to his success has been anything but easy, though; in eighth grade he was diagnosed with CD. Kristofer, however, refused to let the disease slow down his ambitions and he was selected to participate in the Emerging Health Professionals program. His hard work paid off and Kristofer received top honors and graduated second in his class.
Abby has suffered from CD since she was 14 months old, but that hasn't stopped her from pursuing her passion for teaching and learning. She will be getting her master's degree at Viterbo University while continuing her work as a third grade teacher. She plans to specialize in reading, to help other educators teach students to read more effectively. In addition, Abby has competed in a number of beauty pageants—and won! She was named Miss La Crosse/Oktoberfest 2001, Miss Western Wisconsin 2004, Miss Midwest 2006, and Miss Mississippi Valley 2007, among others.
For Amanda Schlak, her own personal struggle with CD is what motivated her to join the medical profession. While searching for her diagnosis, she met her role model: a doctor who distinguished herself from all others with her compassionate demeanor, reassuring command of medical knowledge, and correct diagnosis that led to an effective treatment plan. It was then that Amanda knew she wanted to provide similar care to others someday. The road to medical school was not easy for Schlak, who had to miss classes due to hospitalizations because of CD—but she did not let this deter her from her goals. Despite the serious challenge of her disease, Amanda graduated magna cum laude from West Virginia University with a bachelor’s of science in exercise physiology. Beyond schooling, Amanda has been actively involved in her community and has demonstrated her passion for medicine and health through volunteer work with the WVU Exercise Physiology Club and other community centers.
At the young age of 12, Carly Sorenson knew that she could not let Crohn’s get in the way of her dreams. In fact, she feels her disease has helped make her into the person she is today: “a decisive, hardworking, yet compassionate woman who can advocate for herself.” These qualities shine through in the leadership role she has played in raising awareness for the CCFA, by hosting a Bowl-A-Thon, running a half marathon, and serving as a youth leader at Camp Oasis to help children become their own advocates. She also applies her work ethic and drive to her academics, as she graduated from high school with a 4.0 GPA and high honors. Her ultimate mission is to help others with chronic illnesses.
Logan has always understood that having a chronic illness like Crohn's doesn't mean leading an unproductive life. After working on an advisory board at an HIV/AIDS clinic, Logan saw firsthand how patients with a debilitating disease can live beyond the boundaries of their condition. Since then, Logan has pushed herself to succeed both in and out of the classroom. She volunteered for Habitat for Humanity to share the joy of home ownership with those less privileged than she. When language barriers prevented her from giving the most to the patients she encountered as a volunteer emergency medical personnel, she went the extra mile and learned to speak Spanish. And Logan managed to accomplish all this while working full time and completing her master's in public health from George Washington University.
Since graduating from high school, Susan has accumulated an impressive list of titles: nurse, US Air Force officer, aviation navigator, Desert Storm veteran, single mother of 5, and church medical missionary to Peru, to name a few. For the 51-year-old Edmond, Oklahoma, resident, life has been a series of fast-paced adventures with one small hitch: Susan has CD. After being diagnosed with the disease during a 30-day term of service with the Air Force, Susan went on to develop her nursing career while raising her family. Inspired to continue serving others, she went on to pursue emergency response training and became a member of the Medical Reserve Corps of the State of Oklahoma, as well as a member of the Community Emergency Response Team for the city of Edmond, despite having more surgeries to manage her CD.
Jennifer was diagnosed with CD at the age of 18. From that moment, she knew she had to rise above the disease and use it as a source of empowerment and inspiration. Now, Jennifer is well on her way to becoming a healthcare professional who will help others take charge of their own health. Beyond her personal sentiments about health, Walker is a respected leader of the community. In fact, part of her collegiate experience included summiting a mountain that was over 14,000 feet and conducting field research at 12,500 feet, despite bouts of fatigue and crippling gastrointestinal pain, both common symptoms of CD. Walker went on to present the results of her research at the 2007 International Hypoxia Symposium. Clearly, Crohn’s has not thwarted her plans of achievement and success.
Cheryl Ward's 26-year battle with CD has meant 14 surgeries, countless hospital stays, and on one trip to the ICU, legally dying and being brought back to life. Ward's tenacity and adventurous spirit was evident early on. At the age of 19, she noticed that there were no support groups or literature about Crohn's at the Landstuhl Army Medical Center in Ramstein, Germany, where she was treated. Ward launched the first European National Foundation for Ileitis and Colitis (NFIC) with 40 members from 5 EU countries (Italy, England, France, Germany, and Austria). Her next goal: a master's in science management with a focus in health administration, so that she can become a patient advocate.