By NATE SMELLE
On Saturday, May 20 Rachel Veldhuizen and her family will be hosting a BBQ to raise funds for the Crohn’s and Colitis Canada annual Gutsy Walk. The event will be held at the Giant Tiger in Niagara Falls on Thorold Stone Road. Three years ago, Rachel was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. Since then she has had to make several changes to her diet and lifestyle to avoid the painful symptoms that come with her illness. Chosen as the Honourary Chair of this year’s Gutsy Walk, the 11-year-old student at Quaker Road Public School has decided to use the opportunity to help others who are living with Crohn’s and Colitis.
“I want to help raise money to find a cure for Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD),” Rachel said.
“I have been hospitalized with complications from IBD twice in the last three years and I have frequent flare ups – three to four times per year – which involve a lot of pain, diarrhea and vomiting.”
Because of these flare ups Rachel said she has to miss a lot of school and social activities because she needs to be close to a bathroom. The pain and discomfort she experiences from ulcerative colitis has forced her to stop eating some of her favourite foods. Furthermore, Rachel is now on medication that lowers her immune system and therefore causes her to get sick more often.
Along with her team, Rachel’s Party Poopers, Rachel will be participating in this year’s Gutsy Walk on Sunday, June 4 at Fireman’s Park in Niagara Falls to raise money for Crohn’s and Colitis Canada. She said the money she and her team raises from the BBQ and the Gutsy Walk will be used by Crohn’s and Colitis Canada to fund research for a cure, patient programs, education and support so people can live their life to the fullest and hopefully be cured.
Rachel is also trying to help others living with the disease by taking part in a study at the Pediatric IBD clinic at McMaster. The study is looking into the effects of steroids during a flare up, she said. Currently here is no cure for ulcerative colitis. In Canada, one in every 150 Canadians live with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis – a rate that ranks among the highest worldwide. Since 1995, the incidence of these diseases in children under 10 has almost doubled.
“I would like people to know that having IBD doesn’t have to stop you from doing the things you like to do,” she said.
“I hope doctors can find a cure for IBD soon so I can eat the foods I want, and not have to take medicine every day and be in pain. I hope everyone with IBD can be cured soon.”
Rachel said she has met many individuals living with Crohn’s or Colitis since being diagnosed. Having a network of friends who she can talk to about what she is going through has been very helpful to her and her family. The Niagara Chapter of Crohn’s and Colitis Canada meets each month on the last Monday from 7-9PM in the Community Room at the Superstore in St. Catharines. The gatherings feature guest speakers and free educational events. Rachel encourages other children and adults suffering with IBD to come out and take part in the meetings.
“The meetings are a good place to come and support one another,” she said.
The best way for people to support the cause, she said is for them come to the BBQ this Saturday, or join her at Fireman’s Park in Niagara Falls for the Gutsy Walk on Sunday, June 4 at 11:30AM. Registration begins at 10AM.
For those that can’t make it out to either event who would still like to support Rachel’s Party Poopers, donations can be made by visiting the Crohn’s and Colitis Canada website at www.gutsywalk.ca/Locations.aspx, and selecting Niagara and then Rachel’s Party Poopers to donate. To recognize World IBD Day on Friday, May 19, she said Niagara Falls, the Skylon Tower, the Peace Bridge and Bridge 13 in Welland will all be lit up in purple.