On Sunday (June 8), nearly 15,000 Canadians united, approximately 400 of them in London, to strive towards a future without Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
In its 19th year, the Gutsy Walk, Crohn’s and Colitis Canada’s largest single-day fundraiser, hopes to raise more than $3 million to help advance medical research.
In London, the walk took place at King’s University College.
Canadians have more reasons to be concerned about Crohn`s and colitis than anyone else in the world. Families new to Canada are developing Crohn’s and colitis for the first time — often within the first generation.
Crohn’s and colitis are lifelong diseases that result in pain, urgent bathroom visits, hospital stays, and multiple surgeries. Many in London live with Crohn’s or colitis, so it’s likely everyone knows someone who is affected by this painful and often stigmatizing disease.
“What began in 1994 with just a handful of locations has grown into a national event with 59 walk sites in communities across Canada,” says Har Grover, chair of Crohn’s and Colitis Canada. “One in every 150 Canadians suffer from Crohn’s and colitis, a rate that ranks in the highest worldwide. These are the Canadian diseases. The Gutsy Walk is an opportunity for us to walk together, showing those we care about that they are not alone.”
Organized by local volunteer chapters, London’s event is a fun and healthy way to support those in the community living with Crohn’s and colitis.
The Gutsy Walk started as the Heel 'n' Wheel-a-Thon in 1996 in 24 communities and has since grown to 59 communities where $26 million in funds has been raised to date.
Over the past 18 years, with the support of thousands of volunteers and participants, Gutsy Walk has grown from raising $280,000 to $2.9 million per year for education and research. Through the fundraising efforts of Gutsy Walk participants, there are more researchers hard at work in Canada, which includes funding more than 36 promising research projects in the past year.
This year’s London Gutsy Walk was represented by honorary chair Joanne Afghani. Afghani is a 22-year-old psychology student at Western University and she has ulcerative colitis.
“In the past four and a half years since I was diagnosed I have had many flare-ups, but no matter how bad things got I never gave up,” Afghani said. “I managed to do well in school, became a research assistant, have a great social life, and volunteer for a number of different organizations including Crohn’s and Colitis Canada. I have been extremely lucky to have a supportive family and friends.”
The London Crohn’s and Colitis Canada volunteer chapter works throughout the year to educate the community about Crohn’s and colitis, raising funds for the much-needed research and programs that will improve the lives of children and adults living with these chronic diseases, and ultimately find cures.