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Take Steps for Crohn’s and Colitis: Tampa Bay Edition

One organization. Two diseases. Three BIG reasons to celebrate! The 2017 Tampa Bay Take Steps for Crohn’s and Colitis was better than ever this year. 

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10 News had the biggest presence out of all local television stations again. Twenty-six Hilary’s Crohnies were out in full force wearing their purple!

As I stood on stage looking out at all the faces staring back, I saw a crowd of emotions.

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I saw little kids with more bravery than most adults because they’ve already dealt with enough health issues for a lifetime. I saw teenagers so confident and proud of who they are because they’ve learned what really matters in life. I saw parents with so much love inside them who would do anything to trade lives with their sick child. I saw adults emanating gratitude because they’ve lived and thrived with a life with Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

The first big reason to celebrate is the strength and courage I saw in my fellow Crohnies. Each person is affected by these diseases differently and I am so inspired by each person I meet. One girl who introduced herself to me is Courtney. She was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in 2014. This brave girl has had an ileostomy and ileostomy reversal all within three years.

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She shares her journey with her Instagram followers. I was so impressed by her openness and positivity. Courtney didn’t stop smiling the entire event.

Grant was this year’s young honored hero. He’s a teenager with Crohn’s Disease and told his personal story on stage. This was Grant’s first time sharing his story publicly and he did it with so much confidence.

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How many other teens could talk about something so personal in front of hundreds of people? He talked about the scary weight loss he experienced when he was first diagnosed and how he was fearful to tell his parents what was happening. He shared how he balances his disease with his passion for running. Grant is a true IBD warrior.

The second reason to celebrate is the amazing turnout at the walk. We had 600 people show up to support the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation.

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It was amazing to see all the people who came to support their friend or family member. These are the people who have been there from the beginning with us; who take us to our doctor’s appointments; who laugh and cry with us. I could never describe the gratitude I felt looking out and seeing Hilary’s Crohnies in the crowd.

My parents, my boss and his family, my coworkers and friends, and morning show viewers all came out in support. I cried on stage when I told my personal story because I was overwhelmed with gratitude seeing all the people in my life right in front of me. This walk was for them, too.

Every person I talked to with IBD was so grateful for their life. They weren’t angry or fearful. They weren’t pitying themselves or playing victim. These people told me they’re grateful for having a disease that gives them appreciation for life. They said Crohn’s and Colitis have taught them to listen to and take care of their bodies. They said they don’t take their health for granted.

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The final reason to celebrate is the walk raised over $63,000 for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation! I want to thank everyone who donated to Hilary’s Crohnies, too. Our team raised almost $1,500. The money will go towards patient programs and research for a cure. I am so proud to be a part of the Tampa Bay community. You all rock!

We will get through this fight together. We won’t lose. Much love to you all!

Please check out my guest blog post on Lights, Camera, Crohn’s: An Unobstructed View. I wrote about why I decided to speak publicy about my disease. Natalie Hayden is a fellow Crohnie, former news anchor, and established Crohn’s blogger. 

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