Cindy Pickman’s daughter Lauren was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 2009 when she was going into the sixth grade at Pace Academy.
“It was awful,” the Sandy Springs resident said. “Things were going perfectly. She was very well-liked, she was on the student council … and an all-around good kid.”
Pickman said Lauren was diagnosed the week before school started that summer.
“Everything changed. She missed 25 days of school in sixth and seventh grade,” she said. “I don’t know how my kid got herself to school. She was in so much pain but she was determined.”
Pickman said her daughter’s experience was extremely traumatic and was similar to several other children who are affected by both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America is the largest nonprofit health organization dedicated to finding cures for inflammatory bowel diseases. Its Georgia chapter is literally “taking steps” to help families like the Pickmans who are directly affected.
June 1, the foundation will host its annual family friendly event, Atlanta Take Steps, at the Georgia World Congress Center in downtown Atlanta.
Foundation coordinator Elise Warski Leet, who has Crohn’s disease, said the 2-mile walk is celebrating its sixth year.
So far, 77 corporate and family teams and 323 participants are signed up for the walk, Leet said. There will be a DJ, food tents, as well as a kids’ entertainment area with cotton candy, games and a bouncy house.
The foundation is hoping to raise at least $195,000, Leet said.
While some money goes toward research, support and education, she said a large portion of it also is allocated to scholarships for children to attend Camp Oasis, a July weeklong children’s camp for kids with Crohn‘s and colitis.
Pickman said the impact on Lauren’s experience at the camp was enormous because she did not feel like an outsider.
“She came back a different kid,” she said. “She came back a little bit more confident and comfortable. More importantly, she told me, ‘Nobody looked at me funny. Everybody had their own story. They were all like my story and some kids had it worse.’”
Pickman said Lauren visits the doctor every week to receive an infusion of the drug Remicade, which she calls a “miracle drug” because takes away most of the symptoms of colitis. However, all drugs like Remicade have side effects, she said, including a higher chance of developing leukemia. Plus, the drug will stop working eventually because Lauren’s body will become immune to it.
“Every time I get her blood results, … I get a little more anxiety because I think the drug is becoming less effective. … If she gets to the end of the road and nothing works, she has to get her colon out, and she’s too young,” Pickman said. “That’s why we walk. We want to raise funds and awareness. … We’ve got to find more options.”
If you go:
o What: Atlanta Take Steps walk
o When: June 1 at 4 p.m.
o Where: International Plaza at the Georgia World Congress Center, downtown Atlanta
o Information: www.ccfa.org or www.facebook.com/ccfatakesteps