Crohn’s and Colitis Canada is hosting its 26th annual Gutsy Walk on Sunday, June 6. The Gutsy Walk is a family-friendly, non-competitive walk and fundraiser in support of those impacted by Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, two of the most common forms of inflammatory bowel disease or IBD. There is currently no cure for IBD, which affects roughly 60,000 Quebecers. The Gutsy Walk is both an awareness-raising and a fundraising campaign, with the goal of finding a cure while supporting those living with IBD.
Arianne LaBoissonnière, development coordinator for regions outside of Montreal (including the Montérégie committee) for Crohn’s and Colitis Canada, is currently working with an enthusiastic group of volunteers to organize this year’s Gutsy Walk in the Montérégie. Last year’s walk was heavily impacted by the pandemic and had to be re-organized to take place virtually. This year’s event is facing similar obstacles; however, it has been easier to plan, and the organization will be offering a video event on the day of the walk for participants to attend virtually before they take their walk in their own neighbourhoods.
Last year’s walk raised a total of $1.8 million, a remarkable feat given the circumstances. This year’s goal is $2.2 million.
“Through our fundraising initiatives and our patient programs, we provide a sense of support and community for [those affected], which is so important,” says LaBoissonière. “When people [get diagnosed], their whole world changes. [The walk] gives a lot of people hope, it consolidates people across the province and across the country.”
This sense of community is important for those experiencing an illness that can otherwise be incredibly isolating. Crohn’s and colitis are autoimmune diseases that cause the body to attack itself, leading to inflammation of all or part of the gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms range from abdominal cramping and pain to internal bleeding. IBD affects all aspects of day-to-day life, and although more than one in every 150 Canadians have a form of IBD, it is still very stigmatized today.
Many of the medications used to treat the disease can be effective at quelling flareups and symptoms, but many supress the immune system – a reality many chronically ill folks had to face during the pandemic. “A lot of people who are immunocompromised had to stay home a lot more; they had to isolate themselves way more than others who didn’t take the coronavirus seriously or felt that they were more protected against it, and that’s so frustrating,” says LaBoissonnière.
Dealing with any form of chronic illness or disability can affect one’s mental health, and difficulties have only been compounded by isolation during the ongoing pandemic. “It’s incomprehensible how this is affecting people, and it’s not fair. There is a disparity in who it has most affected,” she says.
The pandemic has only highlighted the need for community support for disabled and chronically ill folks; it has also reminded us that it is important to listen to the voices of these communities.
This year’s Gutsy Walk is shaping up to be a success, which is encouraging. Last year, Crohn’s and Colitis Canada invested in 50 different studies on IBD. “We’re making huge strides and that’s very hopeful for everyone,” says LaBoissonnière.
Crohn’s and Colitis Canada works to support and improve the lives of those with IBD; this year’s walk is one more step in the right direction.
For those interested in donating or participating in the Montérégie Gutsy Walk, please visit the following link: crohnsandcolitiscanada.akaraisin.com/ui/GutsyWalk2021/g/26186.