Imagine a chronic disease that spans all age groups and can develop at any time in your life. It can cause fever, abdominal pain, persistent diarrhea, and sometimes bleeding. This is a daily reality for 1.4 million Americans who live with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), with that number split evenly into Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
Currently there is no cure however, the non-profit, volunteer-driven Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) dedicates time, research and funding every day to finding one.
“The ultimate goal is to find a way for our patients to be in permanent remission,” says Mary Ball of the CCFA’s Atlanta chapter. “The CCFA is funding $25 million this year, and will for every year after. Our efforts will remain as aggressive and consistent as ever.”
Ball, who has been with the Atlanta chapter for four years, works as the CCFA’s regional education and support manager for Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and Alabama. Ball’s father was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease 10 years ago, and when she saw an opening with the CCFA, she knew she needed to get involved.
“I can honestly say I love my job. I do this to make sure that awareness about these diseases is spread, so no one has to get this diagnosis and feel the same sense of hopelessness and fear that my family felt when my dad was first diagnosed,” Ball says. “I work to make sure those with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis do not feel alone, and that they have the support and education they need to successfully manage their disease.”
The Atlanta chapter of CCFA offers support groups throughout the state, as well as a weeklong summer camp called Camp Oasis, for children ages seven to 17 with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Annual patient education programs in Atlanta, Savannah, Columbus and Macon offer question and answer sessions with doctors in the field, information on treatment options and the latest advances toward finding a cure.
In addition to this, there are many ways to volunteer with the Atlanta group. Through the Take Steps Walks in Atlanta, Macon and Savannah, volunteers can help raise funds for research, support and education programs.
The Team Challenge Half Marathon program allows you to run or walk 13.1 miles, or train for a triathlon while helping to find a cure.
“Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are very painful, embarrassing and debilitating diseases that affect children as young as nine months old all the way through adulthood,” Ball says. “The support and education programs that are offered help patients and their families manage this together. The research that CCFA is currently doing will not only benefit our patients, but people affected by other autoimmune diseases such as lupus, fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis.”
The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, Georgia Chapter – Annual Torch Gala
The Annual Torch Gala, hosted by the CCFA Georgia Chapter, seeks to celebrate those individuals and corporations who display a history of commitment and service to finding a cure for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. The dinner dance is the largest single fundraiser of the year for the Georgia Chapter, spanning 21 years. To date, it has raised over $5.1 million. This year’s gala, held January 28 at the InterContinental Buckhead in Atlanta, will honor Citizens of the Year Mr. and Mrs. Jay Davis, and Mr. Richard Davis.