By Jeff Morris
For the second straight year, the annual Gutsy Walk to stop Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis will be held virtually. The 26th annual event will take place Sun., June 6.
While organizers say it’s unfortunate that the event can’t be held as it was before the COVID-19 pandemic, they are doing their best to provide a good event despite the parameters they are working within.
“We encourage people to walk, bike or do whatever they can to participate,” said the Chair of Gutsy Walk Ottawa-Gatineau, Vanessa Huddleson of Manotick. “We want to make the event as inclusive as possible.”
The family-friendly virtual event is the largest research fundraiser and the largest community event that rallies Canadians together in support of the 270,000 Canadians living with the inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). Since 1994, Gutsy Walk has raised over $46 million dollars to support programs and drive innovative research into cures.
Huddleson said that one of the most effective ways of raising awareness for Crohn’s and Colitis is to attach a name and a face to the battle that those affected with the disease are facing. “There is a lot of power that comes with someone telling their story,” she said. “People really connect when they hear someone share their experiences.”
One of those people sharing their story is this year’s Honourary Chair of the Ottawa-Gatineau Gutsy Walk, 13-year-old Lev Silverstein of Nepean. He was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis five years ago. Since then, he has formed the Gutsy Warrior’s Team and has been one of the top five fundraisers in Ottawa each year.
Lev was just eight years old when health problems led to a colonoscopy that showed he had ulcerative colitis.
“I didn’t really tell anybody for about six months,” he said. “I was afraid to tell my friends. When I finally did, the first thing they asked is if it’s contagious.”
Lev missed a lot of school because of his health issues. Every Thursday, he gets a needle with a drug called methotrexate. On occasion, his father has had to go to his school to bring Lev iron pills to take. He has had some flairs that have involved high fever and severe stomach pain. But for the most part, Lev has done his best to just like any other kid.
“Sometimes when I play sports, I will have to take a break for a while,” he said.
Lev found out about the walk on social media. He formed his team, the Gutsy Warriors, and they have been one of the top fundraising teams in Ottawa over the past three years.
While the disease will never go away, Lev is in remission right now. “It’s asleep,” he said. While his journey has been a difficult one, there have been some positives. He has met a lot of people and has been surrounded by support and encouragement. But above all else, there is one thing that has been the best part of his battle.
“My friends are okay with,” he said. “That’s the best thing.”
To find out more about the Gutsy Walk or to make a donation to any individual or team participating, visit gutsywalk.ca.