On April 1, 2012 I kicked-off the 2nd Annual Purple Dress Project. You may remember from last year, I wore the same purple dress every day for a month to raise awareness about Crohn's Disease and to raise money for the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America. This year, I'm scaling back my involvement a little due to my new job as a professor at Indiana University. I'm busier than ever learning my new role as a professor, preparing lesson plans, and working with students.
This brings me to the second change with the Purple Dress Project: I'm now raising money for the Indiana Chapter of Crohn's and Colitis Foundation. Last year I had the best time walking with the St. Louis Take Steps event. I felt so welcomed and it was the perfect first experience with Take Steps. I debated about walking in St. Louis again, but I wanted to spread the Purple Dress Project message to a new group of people. The Indiana Chapter has welcomed me with open arms. I get regular emails from the director and she's always offering to help in some way.
I'm excited to say I'll be participating in the Take Steps Kick-Off Party in Indianapolis on April 22 at the Post Road Recreation Center. If I raise $500 by April 13 a miniature golf hole will be dedicated to The Purple Dress Project! Isn't that fun?! If you'd like to help us reach our goal, click here. For more information about The Purple Dress Project, and to keep up with our progress, "like" us on Facebook here.
Check out how close we are to our goal below:
Despite the changes, I'm still just as passionate about raising awareness about Crohn's Disease. I think we need to talk more about this disease, tell our stories, and encourage others to tell their stories. I recently found out one of my current students has Crohn's and we were able to have a candid conversation about living with such an awful disease. She recently sent me her story in an email I cried reading the third paragraph. I'm sure you will, too. I'm so impressed that she had the foresight to see life would be okay, even at such a young age.
In high school, I attended a camp called Camp Oasis - a week long camp for kids with Crohn's or Colitis. There were about 100 kids, ranging from 4 to 16 years old with counselors who also had the disease. There was a GI doctor with us just in case. We learned about the diseases but we mainly just had fun. Kids would run around at the pool with their scars showing and bags out in the open. For many kids, this is the only time of the year they would ever let it show. The rest of the year, scars & bags were embarrassing & we would be afraid to talk about it. For one week, everyone around you had scars, bags, horror stories, difficulty eating and/or going to the bathroom, etc. We all shared our stories and found comfort in knowing we were not alone.
I was 15 when I was diagnosed. I had spent from my birthday in June until April sick and did not know what was going on. April of 2005 I was diagnosed. The following year, I was hospitalized over and over with no help. My second semester junior year of high school, I was only able to attend 10 days of school the whole semester. I kept up with classes thanks to a home bound teacher who came to my house or the hospital to proctor tests & quizzes and help learn as much as possible. From January to May, I barely saw the light of day. In August, I attended Camp Oasis the first time. Best week of my life!!
I did an obstacle course. The whole camp watched me and a friend attempt the hard ropes course. We were the only two old enough & physically able to complete it. We got to the top & suddenly found myself invigorated & screamed down to the camp "Crohns doesn't control me, I control it!!" The whole camp celebrated with us and focused on the fact that we went from the hospital bed to a physically draining and very difficult ropes course. It was amazing!! From that day on, I decided never to let my Crohn's stop me ever again. As I am graduating from IU, with a full time job with Macy's, I truly believe I achieved my goal. Many of those kids will never be able to attend a big university full time and will never be healthy enough to leave their parents and doctors. I may have had a lot of hospitalizations and surgeries in my four years, but I still did it in four years.
I have given many speeches to groups of young kids for CCFA - it's always about taking control of your life & never letting it stop you from your dreams. I travelled Europe for 8 months, broke 3 countries' laws by bringing my medication in the country, and almost got arrested once for having narcotics for my Crohn's. But, again, I never let it stop me from my dreams. And my goal in life is to make sure every child with Crohns or Colitis knows it is always possible. If you will it, it will come true.