Every year, the AbbVie IBD Scholarship is awarded to students living with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis who exemplify outstanding leadership in their community and strive to maintain an optimal level of wellness.

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Even after graduation, these recipients continue to raise awareness about these diseases, advocate for their peers, and make a positive impact on the Canadian IBD community. Get to know them by reading their bios:
  • Nesrine Aboulhamid - McGill University

    Nesrine Aboulhamid
    Nesrine's journey began with a single sentence she heard after her first colonoscopy: "Food has nothing to do with Crohn’s disease." Since then, she has developed an interest in the gut microbiome and its connection to nutrition. Determined to better understand this link, Nesrine pursued a bachelor of nutritional sciences and became a Registered Dietitian. Her commitment to enhancing personalized treatments led her to publish a paper with the McGill IBD Research Group on comparative effectiveness of biologics and advocating for her community's rights in the face of mandatory switching of biologic medications. 

    Nesrine has also engaged in Montreal's Gutsy walk committees and became a peer support mentor with Crohn’s and Colitis Canada, using her voice and personal experiences to raise awareness. She aimed to pave the way for first-generation students, proving that determination can conquer chronic illness barriers. She is now studying medicine at McGill University. 

    Leana Al-Ugaily - York University

    Leana Al-Ugaily
    Leana was diagnosed in 2015, at the age of 10, with Crohn’s disease. While her friends were in school, she was learning about her diagnosis in the doctor’s office. However, this time spent away from school sparked a new career interest. Fast forward almost a decade, and she is in her second year as a nursing student at York University, having remained in remission since 2020. She believes she has been given a second chance, and rather than shying away from her illness, she has made a choice to bring it to the forefront. She has used it as a driving force for positive change.

    Leana’s commitment goes beyond her professional realm and extends to community involvement. She is a dedicated volunteer in the Crohn’s and Colitis Canada London chapter, where she raises awareness through the Gutsy Walk and connects with many others just like her.

    Jack Comerford - Sheridan College

    Jack Comerford
    Jack was diagnosed with fistulizing Crohn’s disease at age 10 after months of endless doctor visits, tests and inconclusive results. This taught him how a diagnosis can transform fuzziness into focus in a harsh instant. Jack is in his second year of a four-year Bachelor of Photography program at Sheridan College in Oakville.

    Over the years, he has raised more than $20,000 in Gutsy Walk donations, been named Honorary Chair in Halton Region, and participated in a fecal transplant trial at McMaster Children’s Hospital in Hamilton.

    As a photographer, Jack is exploring how variations in light and shadow change perception, and how changes in perception influence the appreciation of reality.

    Samuel Doucet - British Columbia Institute of Technology

    Samuel Doucet
    Diagnosed at age 10, Sam has persevered and kept a positive attitude through adversity. He raises funds for Crohn’s and Colitis Canada, being a top pledge earner each year since diagnosed.

    In 2023, Sam graduated from high school, completing his level 1 construction electrician program. He currently attends the British Columbia Institute of Technology for level 2 construction electrician.

    Brady Elchitz - University of Calgary

    Brady Elchitz
    In 2015, Brady was diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease. To combat it, he committed to a healthy lifestyle, focusing on a diet, exercise, appropriate sleep, avoiding drugs/alcohol, and reducing stress. This allowed him to experience the challenges of living with a chronic illness first-hand, further fueling his passion for healthcare.

    His love for sports and the outdoors pushed him to remain active, healthy, and identify his true passion: IBD and sports. Brady decided to dedicate himself to Sports Medicine and focus on athletes with IBD. He is currently in his second year of Kinesiology at the University of Calgary, combining his interests in healthcare, sports and helping others.

    Brady also leads youth organizations, serving as the Crohn's and Colitis Canada-AB/BC Youth Engagement lead since 2021 and participating in the Jaclyn Fisher symposium as a role model.

    Luca Foster - Yorkville University (Toronto)

    Luca Foster
    In 2019, Luca’s health abruptly took a turn for the worse when she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Navigating her new diagnosis and medical hardships forced her to reflect and clarify that her passion and purpose is to help others. Luca is pursuing her Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology at Yorkville University. Through her diagnosis, Luca has learned that advocating for individuals struggling with IBD is extremely important as it is an overwhelming journey to navigate alone. Luca volunteers with Crohn’s and Colitis Canada and this year she was the Local Honorary Chair for the Fraser Valley West Chapter. Through her experiences, she has learned and witnessed that mental health is becoming an exponentially growing issue, with more individuals seeking help withoug enough resources.

    Carter Hiltz - Dalhousie University

    Carter Hiltz
    Carter was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2013 and has made an impact through his extensive fundraising for the Nova Scotia Gutsy Walk. Early into his diagnosis, he spent a significant period of time with an nasogastric tube as he was unable to eat solid food. This experience heightened his awareness of those experiencing food insecurity, inspiring him to give back to his community through food hamper packing/delivery and volunteering at a local soup kitchen. Despite the significant health and family challenges, he has persevered, maintaining a 4.0 GPA and a high degree of wellness through dedicated study, regular exercise and healthy lifestyle choices.

    Carter is enrolled in his final year of Electrical Engineering at Dalhousie University, where he intends to graduate with a certificate in Biomedical Engineering. During his recent co-op work term, Carter designed and developed a prototype video laryngoscope in collaboration with a team of anesthesiologists. Following his graduation, Carter looks forward to working in the biomedical industry.

    Jessica Klip - McMaster University

    Jessica Klip
    Jessica was diagnosed in 2017 with Crohn’s disease and has been a Registered Practical Nurse for 14 years. She is a domestic violence survivor and single mom of four. She strives to demonstrate to her children, the IBD community and the world that you can achieve your goals, further your education and overcome massive personal hardships, all while living with Crohn’s disease. She is passionate about education, as she feels it is critical to ensure self-sufficiency and independence, especially for women.

    Jessica loves participating in annual Gutsy Walks and raising awareness on her social media. In her spare time, she is a volunteer street nurse, providing care, compassion, and friendship to those experiencing homelessness. During her time working in long-term care, Jessica published a WeRPN article titled “A New Normal”, which outlined the changes the COVID-19 pandemic brought to long-term care homes. Jessica is in her first year at McMaster University in the RPN to RN bridging program where she hopes to work in labour and delivery/NICU in the future.

    Pranshu Maini - McMaster University

    Pranshu Maini
    Pranshu was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 2013. This became the catalyst to help shape his journey to understand the physical, emotional, and psychological struggles of chronic illnesses.

    He is a fourth year Health Sciences student at McMaster University, also doing IBD research at McMaster, Western University, and The Hospital for Sick Children. In fall 2023, he started his Honours Thesis Project investigating the genetic causes of IBD in relation to precision medicine.

    Beyond academia, Pranshu is a founding member and Co-Chair of the Young Adult Community for Crohn’s and Colitis (YACCC), which has engaged 300+ patients and raised more than $10,000 for Gutsy Walk. He is actively involved with Crohn’s and Colitis Canada’s Peel Chapter and serves as the Co-President of the McMaster Medicine and Health Society.

    Diana Marcovici - Schulich School of Business at the University of Toronto

    Diana Marcovici
    Diana was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 2015 just before starting her first year of undergraduate studies. She did not let it stop her from obtaining her International Bachelor of Business Administration degree at a top business school. Soon after, she started her career in the technology industry as a digital marketer amid the pandemic.

    After successfully managing her disease for the last several years, she was diagnosed with severe ulcerative colitis, which inspired her to sign-up as a volunteer with Crohn's and Colitis Canada. Since then, Diana has been an active volunteer in the Durham chapter as well YACCC (the Young Adult Community for Crohn's and Colitis), where she currently is the Events Lead. In the future, Diana's goals are to ramp up YACCC into a larger group to help other young adults like herself navigate the intricacies of transitioning into adulthood with IBD. Diana is a new MBA student at the Schulich School of Business at the University of Toronto with ambitions of a long and fruitful career in business and digital transformation.

    Simon Pan (Clinton Shard Memorial Scholarship Recipient) - McMaster University

    Simon Pan
    After being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in high school, Simon did not to let the condition stop him from pursuing his interests. Inspired by his experiences with Crohn’s, Simon studied microbiology and immunology at Western University to understand the role the immune system plays in health and disease. Currently, Simon is in his first year of medical school at McMaster University.

    Simon has helped organize the Toronto Gutsy Walk as well as serving as President of the London Chapter of Crohn's and Colitis Canada. Outside of his academic aspirations, creative writing is a passion that has helped carry him through many his struggles. Several of his short stories have been published, including in the academic journal Nature. Knowing the difficulties of being a young writer, he has given back by mentoring writers through workshops and leading youth writing groups.

    Marie Audrey Roy - University of Montreal

    Marie-Audrey Roy
    Despite the difficulties caused by Crohn's disease, Marie-Audrey's journey demonstrates her resilience. Following her diagnosis at age 16, she moved into the field of nutrition as a way to improve the care of those living with Crohn's or colitis. After her first year of university, she underwent intestinal resection surgery with the aim of improving her quality of life. In fall 2023, she began her second year of a bachelor's degree in nutrition at the Université de Montréal. Once completed, she plans on pursuing a master's degree in IBD to demystify the causes, optimize the quality of life of patients and find new avenues of treatment.

    Since her diagnosis, she has raised awareness by creating a booklet about Crohn's disease so students and staff of her high school were aware of it and by getting involved with Crohn's and Colitis Canada. She is also involved with the Cadet Program, a national youth program that targets leadership and citizenship skills among those aged 12 to 18.

    Taylor Stephens - School

    Taylor Stephens
    Taylor was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in grade 6 and was grateful for the help and support of many individuals who traveled her path before her. Inspired by their generosity, Taylor started giving back at the age of 12 when she became the spokesperson for the Edmonton Chapter of Crohn’s and Colitis Canada, speaking at various engagements such as Gutsy Walk and the Sugar Rush fundraisers. In addition, she met with the Alberta Health Minister to advocate for increased funding for children with these diseases and did numerous interviews on local Edmonton news stations to raise awareness.

    Taylor has also pursued the arts, most notably maintaining an ongoing position as the Canadian and American anthem singer for the Edmonton Oil Kings, Edmonton Elks and Edmonton Riverhawks sports clubs.  

    Taylor graduated from high school with honours and was granted early acceptance into the Faculty of Science at the University of Alberta. Her goal is to become a gastroenterologist so she can help children, like the many doctors and nurses who have helped her all these years. 

    Caleb Tibbs - McGill University

    Caleb Tibbs
    Caleb was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at age nine and has been an active member of the Crohn's and colitis community since then. His primary focus is Gutsy Walk. Since 2015, he has raised more than $10,000 dollars and has participated in media interviews. In addition, Caleb has been attended programs offered by Crohn's and Colitis Canada, such as Camp Got2Go.

    Like many living with Crohn's, Caleb has not let it stop him from excelling in his school and personal life, from representing Newfoundland and Labrador twice at the national curling level to entering his first year of mechanical engineering at McGill University in the fall of 2023. Caleb's long term goal is to pursue a masters' degree in aerospace engineering, proving that nothing can stop him.

    Venkat Vaibhav - Western University

    Venkat Vaibhat
    Venkat was misdiagnosed with colorectal cancer at 15 before being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Faced with a lack of support from healthcare providers, he embarked on a journey of self-education to take control of his health. This inspired him to advocate for patients in the student community at Western University as the President of the Crohn’s and Colitis Club of Western where he worked with medical experts, nutritionists and social workers to increase accessibility to support.

    His dedication to understanding his condition has transformed him into an advocate for care that emphasizes strong collaboration between dietitians, chronic illness therapists, and gastroenterology researchers. Currently, he is pursuing a master's degree at Western University with gastroenterologist Dr. Samuel Asfaha, studying the origin of IBD-induced colorectal cancer.
  • Yasaman Bahojb Habibyan - University of Alberta

    Yasaman Bahojb Habibyan
    Yasaman is the perfect example of perseverance. Yasaman was diagnosed while entering her final year at university pursuing a BSc in Immunology and Infection. However, despite her health setbacks she has decided to further her academic endeavors to one day help others living with the disease. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. at the University of Calgary, studying the interaction between the microbiome and enteric nervous system in IBD patients and hopes to attend medical school to pursue gastroenterology with a specialization in IBD. She knows first-hand what living with an IBD diagnosis is like and understands the life changes it takes to manage symptoms. She hopes to one day bring this knowledge and understanding to others so they can achieve all they want while living with the disease. Yasaman volunteers with Crohn’s and Colitis Canada and through this work she hopes to minimize the stigma around living with chronic illness and support others in the IBD community. She is currently the program and education lead for the Edmonton chapter of Crohn’s and Colitis Canada. Yasaman believes it's important for youth living with IBD to surround themselves with positive role models.

    Léa Caplan - University of Calgary (Foothills Campus)

    Lee Caplan
    Léa wants to be a gastroenterologist as she aspires to be a physician scientist who advocates for the IBD community. She deeply understands the needs of a patient with the disease not only from her own experience but also from her currently being enrolled in the Masters of Community Health Sciences program at the University of Calgary studying the epidemiology of IBD. She gets a strong sense of purpose from this as it allows her to address a cause that is extremely important to her. Her thesis research will examine the social and clinical predictors of COVID-19 in a cohort of patients with IBD. Her research seeks to protect immunodeficient patients and improve IBD care in the case of future pandemics. It's clear Léa is passionate about advocacy work specifically for young adults living with chronic illnesses. She was elected to be the volunteer Programs and Education lead for Crohn’s and Colitis Canada's Calgary Chapter and even created an education series and connected fellow graduate students from the University of Calgary to support the initiative.

    (Brian) Hsien Heng Chou - The University of British Columbia

    (Brian) Hsien Hen Chou
    While he was studying neuroscience research at the University of British Columbia, Brian started experiencing health issues. At the beginning of his IBD diagnosis he encouraged himself to stay motivated. With his positive attitude and determination, Brian placed within the top 0.1% of students in his faculty. Shortly after he was diagnosed with severe ulcerative colitis, he decided to change his academic focus to medicine. Knowing what it means to live with a chronic illness Brian's values shifted and now he wants to help others in the same way his doctors and healthcare team support. He is currently a second-year resident working on several gastroenterology clinical research projects and his goal is to draft his own project specific to IBD. Brian has not only been involved in IBD-related activities in an academic setting but also in his community participating in the Gutsy Walk in Victoria and Vancouver. He is also actively in online support groups for young adults with IBD. Brian is passionate about supporting others living with the disease and as an avid tennis player and coach, is an advocate for living a healthy lifestyle.

    Kacie Haberlin - The University of British Columbia

    Kacie Haberlin
    Kacie is pursuing Dental Hygiene at the University of British Columbia where she is passionate about educating patients on the connection between systemic health and oral health to instill the importance of holistic health. Since her diagnosis, Kacie has taken an even greater interest in wellness not just for herself but also for those around her. One of the ways she does this is through her love of creating art as she aspires to one day sell her crochet amigurumi. She was also the Vancouver honorary chair for the 2022 Crohn’s and Colitis Canada’s Gutsy Walk and has found comfort in being open about her disease with the IBD community which has allowed her to be an example to others.

    Demetrius Kuc​ - University of Alberta

    Demetrius Kuc
    Determination and a positive attitude are how Demetrius has and continues to excel in his academic and personal life. Since being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at the age of 11, Demetrius has always strived to maintain an optimal level of wellness through dance and music. These creative outlets alleviate his stress and help him maintain his mental wellbeing during the school year. Demetrius is trilingual in English, French and Ukrainian, he is also a member of the Vohon Ukrainian Dance Ensemble, and was involved in a recent production that was performed in Edmonton in both Ukraine and English. Demetrius does not hide his disease and he has learned to become an advocate for those suffering with IBD. With his advocacy, he has organized fundraising events at his school to increase awareness and understanding of Crohn’s Disease. He also teaches piano where he strives not only to be an instructor, but also a mentor to numerous children, some of them facing their own challenges in life. He looks forward to completing his engineering degree at the University of Alberta next year.

    Taylor Morganstein - McGill University

    Taylor Morganstein
    Taylor studies medicine at McGill University, and she is an inspiration to other students struggling with their physical health. Taylor aims to demonstrate through her example that living with an illness does not mean that you will not achieve your dreams. Taylor is on the path to achieving her lifelong dream which is to one day become a pediatric gastroenterologist where she will continue to advocate for those living with IBD. She recently spoke at an international AbbVie conference as a patient spokesperson where she shared her complex patient experience and used her voice to help enhance the care of her IBD peers. She is proud to be part of the IBD community. Although living with IBD can be extremely difficult at times, Taylor has not let her illness stop her and has a long list of academic and personal accomplishments. These include a first author publication in a scientific journal, an internship at Pfizer where she focused on IBD medications, and representing Crohn’s and Colitis Canada as the Montreal Gutsy Walk Local Honorary Chair.

    Samantha Morin - McMaster University

    Samantha (Sam) Morin
    A natural-born athlete, Sam has not let her Crohn’s diagnosis stop her from following through on her passions. Although her life was on pause leading up to her diagnosis and she had to stop her athletics, she has since been able to participate in the activities she loves again after embarking on a journey of self-love & care. Taking care of herself allowed her to pick up cheerleading where she joined the University of Waterloo’s team and competed at the 2020 University and College World Cheerleading Championships.  Sam also founded and led the University's first club that connects, supports, and advocates for those impacted by any chronic disease, including IBD while also volunteering at Crohn’s and Colitis Canada. She is currently pursuing her Master of Science at McMaster University where her thesis explores the ways in which physical activity can improve the lives of children living with IBD. She plans to continue her education by completing a doctoral degree in the same field, and eventually work in clinical IBD research. She wants everyone living with IBD to know that you do not have to let the disease stop you from living your dream.

    Graeme (Adrian) Morphy - Toronto Metropolitan University (Formerly Ryerson University)

    Graeme (Adrian) Morphy
    From a young age, Adrian has been an avid storyteller which led him to study film at Toronto Metropolitan University. In his third year of studies, he had to undergo emergency surgery. During this recovery period he watched many movies to help pass the time. However, he quickly noticed that there were no films that depicted what he was going through. He was disheartened to learn that stories about chronic illness are immensely underrepresented in mainstream media, so Adrian decided to change that. Adrian wrote and directed an award-winning short film, The Man Who Doesn’t Sleep, which explores the themes of chronic illness and mental health. He hopes to continue telling the stories of the IBD community and give others the privilege of seeing themselves represented on screen. Adrian is pursuing a Master’s of Fine Arts in Script Writing & Story Design at the Toronto Metropolitan University.

    Ashley Patel - Toronto Metropolitan University (Formerly Ryerson University)

    Ashley Patel
    After many years of misdiagnosis, Ashley’s journey with IBD ultimately led to what she believes is her calling in life, studying Public Health and Safety at Toronto Metropolitan University. Her own journey with chronic illness has formulated her goal to help the IBD community through allied health. She wants to help bridge gaps in IBD clinical care and focus on expanding mental health support services for those living with IBD who undergo surgical intervention. Her current role as a research assistant at the Zane Cohen Centre for Digestive Diseases at Mount Sinai Hospital has provided insight into the challenges present in gastroenterology through the lens of both healthcare providers and patients. She wants to use this learning and experience to educate individuals everywhere, especially those in marginalized communities where access to resources and care is limited. Ashley is advocating for those living with the illness and is becoming the change she would like to see in the IBD community all while inspiring others to do the same.

    Harleen Kaur Randhawa​ - McMaster University

    Harleen Kaur Randhawa
    Harleen is a first-generation Canadian who was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at the age of 13. She is now in her fourth year of the Cognitive Science of Language program at McMaster University and has impressively made the Dean’s list every year. Her goal is to pursue graduate studies in Speech Language Pathology, to help those who are struggling to find their voices. Harleen helped students as a literacy facilitator and tutor for the Learning Disabilities Association for Halton-Hamilton and served adults and seniors with aphasia as a Communication Facilitator for March of Dimes Canada. She now volunteers with the Crohn’s and Colitis Canada’s Peel Chapter which has been an eye-opening experience for her and her family as they have discovered like-minded individuals who also want to see change. Harleen continuously fights not only for herself but those around her with the hopes of filling in gaps that exist in education, healthcare, and accessibility. Harleen is determined to help break through the stigma associated with IBD.

    Hailey Rocha - University of Toronto (St. George Campus)

    Hailey Rocha
    Crohn's and Colitis Canada, AbbVie Canada, and The Shard Family are pleased to announce that Hailey Rocha is the 2022 Clinton Shard Memorial Scholarship Recipient. Hailey has begun her first year studying bioethics at the University of Toronto, and her dream is to become a Child-Life specialist. Her goal is to help children and families dealing with illness more comfortably navigate the medical field and hospital processes, something that has been born from her own experiences spent in the hospital. A born leader, Hailey hopes to use her knowledge and expertise to be a role model and advocate for those around her including those in the IBD community and her two younger sisters. She takes great pride in her wellbeing and has been able to develop a strong support system. This helped in the creation of a series of videos advocating the importance of Mental Health and Wellness in youth diagnosed with IBD for Crohn's and Colitis Canada's social media pages.

    Sophia Russo - The University of British Columbia

    Sophia Russo
    Navigating Crohn’s Disease is no easy task, but Sophia has managed to do so by becoming a mentor and educating the public about IBD. Sophia finds cathartic release through stand-up comedy and has learned to find humour in living with Crohn’s as a way of helping herself and others come to terms with their diagnosis. Sophia has always wanted to make a difference in other people’s lives, and she is doing just that by mentoring several IBD peers, by offering them advice as they navigate post-secondary school with a chronic illness. Sophia has used humour as a form of medicine and plans on attending medical school in the future. Currently, she is in her third year of her master’s degree at the University of British Columbia, she has spearheaded several articles for The Ubyssey that discussed the experiences of immunocompromised students during the COVID-19 pandemic and offered her own guidance and support.

    Julia (Jules) Verdugo - McMaster University

    Julia (Jules) Verdugo
    In the 10 years since her diagnosis with IBD, Jules has taken all her learning and experience and is using it for something positive. She is currently striving towards working with IBD pediatric patients and their families by completing her Master of Science in Child Life and Pediatric Psychosocial Care at McMaster University. She wants to make sure kids with IBD can just be kids as she has experienced the hardships of chronic illness as a young girl. Her dream is to provide pediatric IBD patients with care and support on GI units. Currently, Jules is a pillar of strength in the IBD community and has no plans to stop. She was involved in her Universities Crohn’s & Colitis club and regularly attends events put on by Crohn's and Colitis Canada so she can continue to further her expertise on the matter.

    Kaylee Wilmot-Joe - University of New Brunswick (Fredericton Campus)

    Kaylee Wilmot-Joe
    Kaylee is in the Bachelor of Education program at the University of New Brunswick after which she plans to pursue her Master of Education program in Counselling. It was in her fourth year of her Bachelor of Science degree at Mount Allison University when she was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. Since then, she has learned that the term disabled means far more than a visible, physical disability, and wants to help educate others so we are more caring, understanding and patient as a society. Being First Nation, she has always aimed for academic success so that she can be a role model for others in her community by showing them that anything is possible despite the historical disadvantages they have been dealt with. She wants to help create diversity among schoolteachers, so students feel reflected in their teachers, and increase support for at-risk youth and the disabled community.

    Camille Zimmer - University of Victoria

    Camille Zimmer
    Camille is passionate about protecting our earth, particularly our freshwater supply. It has driven her to become a PhD student in the Civil Engineering department at the University of Victoria researching drinking water treatment and public health. Not only is she passionate about her academic area of focus, but she is also a champion of women in engineering. She has experienced obstacles and setbacks with her IBD diagnosis, but she works hard to prove that not only can she overcome these obstacles, but she can empower other girls and women to do the same. This commitment led her to create the first-ever GoEngGirl at the University of Victoria where they hosted 50 young women aspiring to enter the field of engineering. She is also part of an advisory committee that supports the national 30 by 30 initiatives, which aims to increase the number of newly licensed female engineers to 30% by 2030. She acknowledges the importance of a supportive group around her to help during the tougher moments. Her grandfather lived with Crohn’s disease and introduced her to the Victoria Crohn’s and Colitis Canada's support group, where she has made many supportive friends.

    Austin Haasz - Western University​

    Austin Haasz

    The saying “everything happens for a reason” resonates with Austin. After a two-week stay at The Hospital for Sick Children, Austin learned that he had Crohn’s disease, and receiving the diagnosis reaffirmed his decision to pursue a career in medicine. In fact, he’s striving to become a gastroenterologist. His interest in the field and desire to support young adults motivated Austin to become a patient partner for a project led by Dr. Dean Tripp at Queen’s University that investigates the relationship between mental health and IBD in adolescents. While staying on top of coursework for his undergraduate degree in health sciences and biology at Western University, Austin also supports fellow mustangs as a member of the student engagement and advocacy committee. His impact extends beyond the halls of Western as he took the initiative to establish the Young Adult Community for Crohn’s and Colitis to empower youth as they transition to adult care and sits on the committee for Crohn’s and Colitis Canada’s Young Adult Series.

    Caitlynn Danchuk - University of Manitoba

    Caitlynn Danchuk

    Ulcerative colitis is often referred to as invisible, yet the disease has been a prominent facet in Caitlynn’s life. Despite the challenges that she’s faced over the past nineteen years, Caitlynn uses the disease as motivation during both difficult and exciting times; she never gives up on working towards her goals even when she feels that her body is trying to hold her back. Caitlynn is entering the final year of her undergraduate degree in Human Nutritional Sciences at the University of Manitoba, moving her one step closer to fulfilling her dream of becoming a dietitian so that she can help people with IBD reach their nutritional goals. To absorb as much knowledge as possible, she’s also working as a student volunteer for a research project on celiac disease. Outside of her studies, Caitlynn raises awareness by writing blog posts about IBD for students at the University of Manitoba and engages with Crohn’s and Colitis Canada as Vice-President of the Winnipeg Chapter and member of the Volunteer Advisory Committee.

    Ellen Klaver - University of Alberta​

    Ellen Klaver

    Ellen’s been heavily involved in the IBD community since her sister was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2007. Diagnosed with Crohn’s in 2021, Ellen views her diagnosis as an opportunity to grow and contribute to the IBD community in new ways, enrolling in studies on self-management and the link between IBD and mental health. As a past competitive athlete, Ellen observed that disordered eating was not uncommon. Fascinated by the complexities that underlie eating disorders, Ellen is focusing her PhD in counselling psychology at the University of Alberta with a specialization in eating disorders and how sleep can be used to improve treatment outcomes. She’s also supported the wellbeing of others as a volunteer with the Eating Disorder Support Network of Alberta and YWCA. The inquisitive scholar aims to build a more patient-centred health care system as she helped execute a study on improving the care pathway for people with borderline personality disorder and published a study on inter-professional education as lead author in the Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy.

    Eric McMullen - McMaster University​

    Eric McMullen

    Being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and ankylosing spondylitis within the past five years shaped the trajectory of Eric’s studies and career ambitions. Determined to become a gastroenterologist, Eric will join the class of 2024 at McMaster University’s Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine. Leading up to his acceptance, Eric completed co-ops at the Central Region of Ontario Health where he helped launch the Musculoskeletal project – a provincial program that reduces wait times for assessments for patients with inflammatory conditions who are considering hip or knee replacements. Outside of school and enjoying the great outdoors, Eric spent time working as a Clinical Research Assistant at The Hospital for Sick Children and the Hamilton General Hospital. The budding physician is already shaping the future of health care through his involvement with clinical research projects, and even acted as first author for a systematic review, Strategies to Prolong Ketamine’s Efficacy in Adults with Treatment-Resistant Depression, that was published in Advances in Therapy.

    Jack Sweeting - Trent University

    Jack Sweeting

    Over the past eight years, Jack has demonstrated resiliency and an abundant amount of positivity while facing the challenges that come with Crohn’s disease. Diagnosed at the age of ten, it was the passionate team at SickKids who supported Jack throughout his journey that sparked his interest in the field of nursing. Jack is following in their footsteps by starting an undergraduate degree in nursing at Trent University with the goal of becoming a pediatric nurse so that he too can support children and youth facing IBD. While excelling academically, Jack has made an incredible impact at his high school and beyond. He’s attended the Global Student Leadership Conference and Ontario Student Leadership Conference with his school, and supported the One Million Meals Project by Kids Against Hunger. Jack has also shown his gutsy spirit as a past honorary chair for a local Gutsy Walk, and helped launch a recognition program that awards certificates to heroes that make the journey with IBD a little bit easier.

    Jasmine Kobrosli - University of Windsor​

    Jasmine Kobrosli

    Jasmine acts as a great source of strength and inspiration for her friends, family, and others who are facing a chronic health condition. Diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 2013, Jasmine underwent a sub-total colectomy, resulting in a permanent ilesotomy in 2017. It was shortly after that she was also diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Tying her love for psychology with her personal experiences, Jasmine is completing an undergraduate degree in psychology at the University of Windsor with her thesis examining the psychological effects of IBD. When she’s not completing schoolwork or mentoring with The Bridge Youth Resource Centre, you can find her supporting research focused on women’s health. As she heads into the school year, Jasmine will collaborate with a researcher leading a project that examines the lived experiences, challenges, and quality of life for those with IBD. The curious scholar aims to become clinical psychologist where she can incorporate psychological tools into treatment for IBD.

    Jaylyn Watson - Queen’s University

    Jaylyn Watson

    Entering her final year of the undergraduate nursing program at Queen’s University, Jaylyn has made a mark on campus by supporting fellow students living with inflammatory bowel disease. Diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at the age of fourteen, Jaylyn has openly shared her story about what it’s like to live with a chronic health condition. Since her ileostomy surgery in October of 2020, she’s gained an even stronger voice for advocating for herself. Jaylyn’s efforts to create a tight-knit community for students at Queen’s as an executive member of Queen’s University’s Crohn’s and Colitis Committee have not gone unnoticed as she received an undergraduate society volunteer of the month award. With a vested interested in health care and creating platforms where young IBD patients facing surgery can raise their voice, Jaylyn is pursuing a career in nursing to help advocate on behalf of her future patients to ensure they receive the very best care that supports their overall health and wellness.

    Joshua Eszczuk - University of Alberta

    Joshua Eszczuk

    Joshua has navigated the ambiguity that often comes with ulcerative colitis since he was three years old, which is why he made a personal pact to contribute as much as he can to uncovering the unknown around IBD. His passion for research inspired him to work with the University of Alberta Division of Gastroenterology’s Gut Microbiome lab to help enhance our understanding of the gut microbiota’s role. Eager to share his story and insights, Joshua became a patient partner and resource developer with Solutions for Kids in Pain, played an advisory role with the Stollery Children’s Hospital’s Youth Advisory Council to help revolutionize how pediatric health care addresses pain, and contributed to the development of handouts available through Moving one step closer to bringing his dream of becoming a sports medicine orthopaedic surgeon to fruition, Joshua will continue to put his leadership skills into practice as he starts a bachelor of science degree with a specialization in kinesiology at the University of Alberta.

    Kate Mason – Dalhousie University

    Kate Mason

    Health has been Kate’s focus personally, academically and professionally since she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at the age of eighteen. Passionate about pursuing a career in health care, she completed a Bachelor of Arts in International Development with a minor in Health Studies at Dalhousie University as well as a Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the University of Toronto and is now a Certified Palliative Care RN. As the next step in her academic journey, Kate is starting a Master of Health Administration at Dalhousie University as she’s committed to bringing the voices of patients and front-line workers to the decision-making table. With the close connection to the IBD community acting as a source of support and inspiration, Kate organized the first Gutsy Walk in Muskoka, applied her nursing skills as a medical volunteer with Camp Got2Go, and currently acts as a patient representative with the IMAGINE SPOR Network.

    Kenya Taplay - Brock University

    Kenya Taplay

    “Ulcerative colitis has changed me, but has not defined me” are words that Kenya stands by. Kenya’s faced many challenges throughout her journey but has always demonstrated unshakeable resiliency. She strives to achieve academic success as the experiences that she faced as a teen peaked her interest in pursing a career that would support children and their families, which is why she is completing an undergraduate degree in applied linguistics, speech and language sciences at Brock University with her ultimate goal to pursue a Masters in Speech Pathology. Passionate about community involvement, Kenya served on the Youth Advisory Council for McMaster Children’s Hospital for three years to help give a voice to teens and share their ideas and belongs to the Hamilton Ostomy Society. Kenya finds sharing her story is empowering and believes that connecting with others facing similar experiences helps contribute to overall health and well-being.

    Lauren Baerg - University of Toronto

    Lauren Baerg

    Five years ago, Lauren’s life changed when she was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. While her experiences were physically and emotionally challenging, Lauren gained a sense of community and inspiration for her career. From acting as President of Crohn’s and Colitis Canada’s Hamilton Chapter to belonging to McMaster University’s Crohn’s and Colitis Club throughout her undergraduate degree, you can find Lauren taking on leadership roles in the IBD community. While at McMaster, Lauren acted as the Lead Teaching Assistant for Health Solutions Design Project, joined the McMaster Undergraduate Women in STEM Club as the VP of Finance and Administration, and became a Research Assistant at the Farncombe Family Digestive Health Research Institute. She’s now closing her chapter at McMaster and moving on to pursue a graduate degree in biomedical engineering at the University of Toronto with her studies focused on probiotic therapies for IBD.

    Mariam Mersha - University of Alberta

    Mariam Mersha

    After learning that she had Crohn’s disease, Mariam was inspired to pursue a career in health care, which is why she’s currently completing the undergraduate nursing program at the University of Alberta. In-between classes, clinical rotations, and volunteering as Education Lead with Crohn’s and Colitis Canada’s Edmonton Chapter, you will find Mariam creating wellness challenges that promote nutrition and self-care as a member of the team at YEG The Come Up – the Africa Centre’s youth-centred program that empowers youth residing in Edmonton. Driven to make an impact both locally and globally, Mariam dreams of building a free not-for-profit school in Ethiopia and naming the school after her mother. Born and raised in Ethiopia, Mariam’s mother could not afford to attend school so she would sit outside and listen to the teachers. As a first step towards making her dream come true, Mariam has developed the Education and Career Mentoring Project for Canadian students with Action for Healthy Communities.

    Mathew Himelson - University of Toronto

    Mathew Himelson

    Mathew learned about the hardships that come with a chronic disease at a young age as he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease before the age of five. While facing an uphill battle, his personal ambition to empower youth, including those taking on a chronic illness, to work towards their goals continued to grow. This ambition put him on the path towards becoming a high school teacher, which is why he’s completing a Master’s of Education at the University of Toronto. Understanding firsthand the importance of mental health, he aspires to develop after-school initiatives to offer a welcoming and open space for students with a chronic illness or disability. Before kicking off his graduate studies, Mathew organized the first-ever Lang Sustainability Conference and taught the importance of sustainability to over 500 elementary and high school students through the My World, My Choice!. Today, Mathew continues to support the community through a program where he mentors surgery patients as they adjust to life with an ostomy.

    Matthew O’Halloran - University of Toronto

    Matthew O'Halloran

    Crohn’s disease has been one of Matthew’s greatest teachers in life. It’s the discomfort, exhaustion and frustration that he’s experienced since the age of three that’s taught him patience, compassion, appreciation, and resilience – all of which Matthew applies as he pursues a career as a professional musician. With a natural knack for music, the talented musician who once attended the Canada Music Academy is working towards his Associate Diploma (ARCT) from the Royal Conservatory of Music while completing a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Performance at the University of Toronto. Leveraging his artistic talents that include playing everything from jazz to classical music and commitment to supporting Crohn’s and Colitis Canada’s mission, Matthew proudly took on the role of the 2018 National Gutsy Walk Honorary Chair and hosted three benefit jazz concerts, sharing his musical talents that won him multiple awards at the Brockville Lions Club Music Festival.

    Michael Shamash – McGill University

    Michael Shamash

    Michael shares that learning he had Crohn’s disease highlighted his passion for life sciences and motivated him to complete an undergraduate degree in microbiology and immunology at McGill University. He is continuing his path in academia by pursuing graduate studies in the same field, with his research focusing on how the gut microbiome is related to childhood malnutrition and the optimal clinical interventions for these children. Michael’s passion for mentoring students who are interested in scientific research is clear as he took on a teaching assistant role for undergraduate lab and bioinformatics courses at McGill University and encourages elementary and high school students to engage in science through Let’s Talk Science and the Youreka Canada Symposium. As an active member in local and online IBD events, you can also find him volunteering at the Gutsy Walk and McGill’s Gutsiest Students.

    Ruby Mann – McMaster University

    Ruby Mann

    Ruby received her Bachelor of Science in Psychology, Neuroscience, & Behaviour from McMaster University and aspires to attend medical school to become a psychiatrist. She was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at the age of eighteen. Ruby recognized the existing gaps surrounding mental health education in IBD care, which inspired her to take on the role of Education Event Lead for Crohn’s and Colitis Canada’s Peel Chapter and co-found the Young Adult Community for Crohn’s and Colitis. She is currently a Research and Communications Assistant at the Offord Centre for Child Studies in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences at McMaster University. Ruby also volunteers in an IBD lab and does research on how to enhance the quality and safety of patient care. She demonstrates leadership in many areas outside of research, including holding the role of National Administrative Officer for the Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) Canada.

    Tesa Ramsay - Saint Mary’s University​

    Tesa Ramsay

    From the United Way Cape Breton to Crohn’s and Colitis Canada, Tesa has generously donated her time and talents to many charities in her community. Currently completing the Bachelor of Commerce Program at Saint Mary’s University, the fourth-year undergraduate student has volunteered with the United Way since 2011 where she’s supported annual fundraising events and taken on the role of Communications and Events Assistant. Eager to inspire kids and teens to reach for the stars, Tesa led the charity’s Summer Fun Days program and took the initiative to apply for funding to run a literacy program. Tesa has shown the same initiative and community-minded approach in the IBD community as her family jumped right into co-chairing the local Gutsy Walk after she was diagnosed with IBD in 2015. Keen to support her peers who are affected by Crohn’s or colitis, Tesa took on the role of an online peer mentor through the iPeer2Peer Program led by Dr. Sara Ahola Kohut at The Hospital for Sick Children.

    Trevor Klingenberg - McGill University

    Trevor Klingenberg

    Trevor, a Volunteer Captain for Gutsy Walk and a fellow peer from the Gutsy Peer Support program, is completing his undergraduate degree in physical and health education at McGill University to fulfil his dream of becoming a physical education teacher. Along with teaching students about positive lifestyle habits, the aspiring physical and health educator aims to be a resource for students facing chronic health conditions, creating a space for supportive and open conversations. While in the midst of completing his degree, Trevor has demonstrated his commitment and passion for the field by becoming a committee member with The Association of Physical Educators of Quebec and through involvement with the 2018 Physical Health Education National Conference. Trevor has taken on leadership roles with EduBuddies, McGill’s Montreal Student Initiative for COVID-19 Response and Relief, Montreal Canadiens Children’s Foundation, and CampGot2Go at Brigadoon Village as camp counsellor to connect with and empower others facing IBD.

    Xin Yu Yang - Université de Montréal

    Xin Yu Yang

    Xin Yu’s mother always told her, “Work hard and you will have everything you dream of.” Understanding the power of education, Xin Yu took these words to heart as she diligently put in the work to be accepted to medical school at the Université de Montréal. Diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at the age of thirteen, Xin Yu’s diagnosis and life experience fueled her desire to become a gastroenterologist. While completing her degree, she has been working with Dr. Prévost Jantchou at CHU Sainte-Justine on research that focuses on physical activity in adolescents with IBD, transitioning to adult care, and COVID-19 risk perception, knowledge and attitude in adolescents in Quebec with the study published in the journal Children. As lead for the Access to Medicine and Health component of the Spreading Awareness About Education, Universities and Research project sponsored by the university, Xin Yu exposes high school or CEGEP students from disadvantaged or multicultural backgrounds who are interested in pursuing careers in medicine or health to the reality of the fields to help make the careers more accessible.

    Anonymous - Anonymous


    Anonymous, who lives with ulcerative colitis, tells himself every morning that he must seize the day because tomorrow is never guaranteed to be the same. The mentality to seize the day is one that the undergraduate student plans to instill within his future students to encourage and empower them to bring their dreams to fruition when he achieves his own goal of becoming a high school teacher. With a vested interest in getting involved in initiatives focused on mental and physical health, Anonymous supported the Cyrus Mental Health Centre through his involvement with the Rotaract Club of Chilliwack Fraser and acted as a student leadership mentor for first-year students. He also volunteers with Run For Water and spends his evenings coaching a boys’ soccer team. A fellow member of the Crohn’s and Colitis Canada community, Anonymous belongs to the Gutsy Walk Fraser Valley East Committee and volunteers as a translator to help let the Francophone community know how to support those living with IBD.



    Ann Weber - University of Manitoba​

    Ann Weber
    Ann took her first steps into the research community at 14 years old when she became one of 20 semi-finalists at Google Science Fair. Since then, Ann received many awards and scholarships, including the Isbister Scholarship for a top-five GPA in the Faculty of Science at the University of Manitoba and the NSERC University Undergraduate Research Award. 

    Early in her undergraduate career, Ann experienced months of symptoms affecting every facet of her life and was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. Shortly after, her mother was diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and these events evolved her vision towards that of medicine.

    During this time, Ann became a Medical First Responder (MFR) with St. John Ambulance and joined their executive team to interview and train prospective MFRs. Now entering her third year of medical school, the aspiring physician demonstrates leadership as a Community Outreach Representative on behalf of the Rady College of Medicine, a class representative for Women in Medicine, and liaises for the Undergraduate Medical Education Support Team. She has taken action to help fellow Canadians navigate COVID-19 through screening, and provincial contact tracing. As a proud advocate for mental health and wellness, she and her team also established the Manitoba Student Senior Isolation Prevention Partnership. Ann also provides an open ear to the IBD community as a Gutsy Peer Support Mentor.   

    Carlie Thompson​ - Concordia University ​

    Carlie Thompson
    Carlie leaped into the volunteer sector when she was nine years old as she began volunteering with the SPCA, which led her to receive the BC SPCA Award of Merit. Another highlight of Carlie’s commitment to giving back to the community is her involvement with the Kamloops Youth Hybrid Club and Rotary. As vice-president, you could find Carlie running meetings, managing events, and acting as a liaison. She also completed a Rotary Youth Exchange in Japan. Carlie continues to demonstrate leadership as she facilitated the 2019 and 2020 Kamloops Gutsy Walk and advocates for washroom access.

    When she was 18 years old, Carlie received the diagnosis of ulcerative colitis only five days before flying across the country to turn her love for animals into a career, as her goal was to complete a bachelor’s degree in science and a master’s degree in zoology. While Carlie took her first step towards achieving her dream, she temporarily withdrew from the program to get her health under control. Carlie shares learning to accept the diagnosis and manage the symptoms at the age of 18 was demanding, but made her stronger. By the age of 19, she decided she would thrive in spite of living with colitis. Now in her 20th year, she is on the road to remission and ready to embrace life as an independent and ambitious young adult.

    David Pugh​ - York University​

    David Pugh
    Diagnosed at the beginning of high school, David found his first two years living with ulcerative colitis particularly challenging, both physically and mentally. Experiencing mental health issues, David wrote and produced the play ‘Saving Copetown’ as a way to not only express and cope with his personal hardships, but also show others with similar struggles that they are not alone. His community developed a deep connection with the storyline, which explicitly addressed mental illness and the associated stigma, as it won Best Play at the National Theatre School Festival.
    Throughout high school, David showed interest in pursuing a degree in psychology as he wrote a biweekly column, ‘Mental Health Mustangs’, for his school’s newspaper to spark conversations and provide support for his peers in their mental health journeys.

    Keen on helping others, David has volunteered over 800 hours with 14 organizations. He mentors fellow teens taking on IBD by sharing his story and generates IBD awareness through keynote presentations. Even more, David infused his differently abled perspective within the Accessibility Initiative he led at his local library.

    David is also very passionate about history. He champions the War Portraits Project at Brantford Collegiate Institute, which highlights stories of school alumni who are also veterans. He also won the Vimy Pilgrimage Award, and participated in a First World War educational program in Belgium and France.
    David is moving another step closer to fulfilling his dream of becoming a clinical psychologist by entering his first year of the Honours Psychology Program at York University. In undergrad and beyond, he hopes to study the impact of chronic illness on mental wellbeing.

    Dennis Drewnik – University of Manitoba​

    Dennis Drewnik
    Dennis has expressed a keen interest in pursuing a career in research since his teenage years. During high school, he performed university level research, with the goal of protecting a multibillion-dollar canola industry from devastating fungal pathogens. His project received over 25 awards at the provincial, national and international levels, and Dennis presented his research at the prestigious 2016 Nobel Prize Ceremonies.
    Since receiving the diagnosis of Crohn’s disease in his first year of university, Dennis faced many challenges, but always remained determined to thrive academically. While pursuing a B.Sc. in Cellular, Molecular, and Developmental Biology (Honours) with a minor in Chemistry at the University of Manitoba, Dennis received a research award from the Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba, enabling him to explore opportunities in molecular science. He is now studying novel contributors to neurodegenerative diseases for his honour’s degree project. As he believes in the importance of youth education and science literacy, Dennis introduced an interactive IBD booth at Science Rendezvous, the country’s largest science festival.
    His passion for helping others is the reason Dennis works for the University of Manitoba Faculty of Science Dean’s office as an academic advisor for his peers, guiding their futures while encouraging success. Driven to help others succeed, he also tutored and mentored students with learning disabilities, such as ADHD and dyslexia.
    A familiar face and leader within the Crohn’s and Colitis Canada community, Dennis is the president of the Winnipeg Chapter. He puts his heart and soul into helping organize chapter meetings, events, and other initiatives with his local staff partner to create awareness and unite the community.

    Isabelle Rochette – Université de Montréal

    Isabelle Rochette
    Isabelle completed her bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree, as well as a graduate program in Data Science at Harvard University. She excelled academically while obtaining a perfect average of 4.0, taking advanced courses in statistics and machine and deep learning. Now, Isabelle is embarking on a new journey in her second year of her PhD program in Criminology with a co-direction in Computer Science.
    Her research focuses on cybersecurity of the ecosystem of autonomous and connected vehicles from a resilience perspective. Her interest in this topic stems from the parallels drawn from her own journey with Crohn’s disease: a resilient woman with a chronic disease whose acute inflammatory flare-ups occur randomly, but does not stop her from achieving her dreams.
    These skills and interests have translated in to her work life, as she working for the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security, allowing her to reflect on the future implications of the development of certain technologies—such as connected and autonomous vehicles—on the evolution of crime and security.

    On top of balancing school, research, and day-to-day life, she also has been a volunteer for Crohn’s and Colitis Canada for five years in the Montérégie region. Her passion for research is reflected in the Crohn’s and colitis community as she also participated in the PACE research group in Montreal.

    Kate Latos – University of Alberta​

    Kate Latos
    Throughout her journey with Crohn’s disease, Kate has not let the disease become her identity; she has and continues to pursue her dreams. At the peak of her illness, Kate competed internationally in freestyle skiing and took part in collegiate cross-country skiing and cheerleading. During her graduate degree, Kate capped off studies with a China study tour.
    Over the past 15 years, Kate played an integral role as a volunteer with Crohn’s and Colitis Canada by coordinating education events and fundraisers. In 2009, Kate’s enthusiasm and collaborative nature led her to become the local Gutsy Walk chairperson, which has been a family event for her since 2004. She focuses on connecting, educating, supporting, and inspiring others living with IBD to look beyond their diagnosis for their identity. Her ongoing efforts were recognized as she won Crohn’s and Colitis Canada’s ‘Make It Stop. For Life’ award in 2019.
    Outside of supporting the Crohn’s and colitis community, Kate continues to shine, as she was a recipient of the ‘Ones to Watch Award’ for the 2018 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards program. Her company, Ecofence and Decking Ltd., focuses on sustainability as it sells products made from 100% postconsumer recycled plastic.

    While the illness initially prevented her from pursuing further education, 12 years later Kate is heading back to class to fulfill another dream; completing a degree with the Faculty of Law at the University of Alberta.

    Lisa MacNeil – Acadia University​

    Lisa MacNeil
    Lisa has always had passion for learning. She completed a Bachelor of Public Relations at Mount Saint Vincent University, and Lisa’s co-op employer nominated her for Co-op Student of the Year. Most recently, as a Co-operative Education Coordinator at Mount Saint Vincent University, Lisa supported students in securing co-op work terms and internships. This included delivering professional development sessions on topics like resumes, cover letters, interviews, and communication in the workplace. Lisa was also selected as the Mount Storyteller as part of the Emerging Leader’s Program at the Mount where she wrote profile stories on staff, faculty, alumnae, and students.
    While her journey with Crohn’s disease hasn’t been easy, Lisa continues to learn to accept Crohn’s disease as a part of the whole of who she is. Having lived with disease for over 20 years has allowed Lisa to self-reflect and develop patience, humility, empathy and compassion for herself and others. Her experience living with a chronic illness, participating in peer groups and individual therapy inspired her to pursue a Master of Education (MEd) in Counselling. Her goal is to learn counselling skills and techniques to be able to support people living with a chronic illness.
    From bringing the magic of Camp Guts and Glory at Brigadoon to life as a camp counsellor to being a peer mentor with Crohn’s and Colitis Canada to participating as a patient-partner with the IMAGINE Chronic Disease Network, Lisa proudly supports the people around her. 

    Simona Perrotti​ - McMaster University

    Simona Perotti
    Diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at the age of 13, Simona calls the disease her “greatest mentor and teacher”—attributing her courage, passion, and resiliency to the experiences she’s undergone throughout her IBD journey.

    Simona will be continuing her undergraduate studies as she enters her fourth year at McMaster University in the department of Life Science with a specialization in Molecular Biology and Genetics. 

    In her three years at McMaster, she has searched for ways to enrich her academic and leadership-oriented learning experiences. She completed leadership courses outside the department of science, which have paved the way to seek leadership roles and employment within the university, such as through her role as Cultural Ambassador in the MELD (McMaster English Language Development) Program, where she mentors international students that require additional language support as they undergo their studies. 

    Simona is also an influential force for the IBD community in Hamilton. As founder and President of the McMaster Crohn’s and Colitis Club, she raises awareness, provides a support base, and fundraises together with other group members. Additionally, Simona was the Honorary Chair for the Hamilton Chapter at the 2019 Gutsy Walk. She says raising awareness has been a cathartic experience, and has given her the opportunity to share what she has learned with others and to meet individuals who are living through a similar situation.

    Sophie LeBlanc – University of New Brunswick

    Sophie LebBanc
    Despite all the odds Crohn’s disease can bring, Sophie has been determined to achieve her goals and remain athletic. Having lived with Crohn’s for 10 years, Sophie is no stranger to the challenges the disease can bring. She has resisted the “sick kid” label and made every effort to be involved with extracurricular activities, such as serving as the Student Council Head of Athletics and Stage Manager for her high school’s production of Mamma Mia!

    Sophie graduated from Prince Andrew High School’s International Baccalaureate Programme, and now she is preparing to pursue a BSc in Kinesiology from the University of New Brunswick, so that she can fulfill her goal to become a physiotherapist. 

    When she’s not playing volleyball, Sophie dedicates her time outside of school to volunteering with Canadian Blood Services, rescue missions, Brigadoon Village, and Crohn’s and Colitis Canada. She has participated in Gutsy Walk for 10 years, making a team every year, and served as the Honorary Youth Chair at the Halifax Chapter’s Gutsy Walk in 2013. 

    Additionally, Sophie was the Maritimes’ pediatric representative for Crohn’s and Colitis Canada’s PACE Network national conference in 2017, providing her input on the Top 10 research initiatives from a patient’s perspective, and was a Patient Engagement Committee member for the IMAGINE Network.

    Vanessa Reali – University of Toronto​

    Vanessa Reali
    Both a patient and healthcare provider in the IBD community, Vanessa is pursuing a Masters of Nursing at the University of Toronto. Prior to this, she completed a Bachelor of Science at McMaster University and her undergraduate nursing degree at the University of Toronto with distinction. While pursuing her undergraduate degrees, she was granted authorship for a publication in a top-ranked toxicology journal for her research in an independent study, received a summer research scholarship, and granted authorship on two health policy publications. From there, she was recognized for her outstanding academics at the Honour Society of Nursing: Sigma Theta Tau International.
    Last year, she obtained a Canadian Nurses association (CNA) Gastroenterology Certification [CGN(C)], a nationally recognized nursing specialty accreditation representing expertise and commitment to ongoing learning in GI care. Throughout her work, she engages in mentorship and volunteer opportunities, particularly ones involving advocacy and support for students.

    Since receiving her diagnosis of Crohn’s disease in 2014, Vanessa rallied her loved ones to participate in Gutsy Walk as “Team Forrest Dump”. Whether it is connecting with someone newly diagnosed or farther along in their journey, Vanessa eagerly shares her story to help others.
    Her empathetic nature shines through as a nurse: ensuring patient care is not only met – but the utmost priority. Working as a nurse gives her the pleasure of working with people who, like herself, have stories of who they were before their illness, scars to remind them of the battles they have faced, and families who they continue to fight for.

    Aric Rankin - McMaster University

    Aric Rankin
    Aric has always been passionate about giving back to the community. After receiving his ulcerative colitis diagnosis as a teenager, Aric began speaking to fellow patients with IBD about his experience, offering advice for coping with the diagnosis. Twenty-two years later, he continues to visit and speak with patients and families to lend an empathetic ear and encourage them to see that there is life beyond IBD. Aric also volunteers with the Canadian Medical Assistance Teams as a nurse, and was a first responder in Haiti after the earthquake in 2010. Back at home, Aric works as a Nurse Practitioner and mentors Nurse Practitioner students. He has decided to broaden his knowledge and ramp up his research efforts by pursuing a PhD in Nursing at McMaster University. He hopes his research will help bridge the health inequity gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. Outside of his studies, Aric plans to become involved with the IBD community at McMaster University, where he will continue to share his positive attitude. He also volunteers with the annual Crohn’s and Colitis Canada Gutsy Walk. Aric says IBD changed his life for the better. Along with his diagnosis, he was informed of his blood type. He has since adapted it to his personal philosophy, and applies it in all his endeavors: “B positive!”

    Brian Pentz - University of Toronto Scarborough

    Brian Pentz
    From his first step into academia, through the completion of three degrees and continuing during his current doctoral studies at the University of Toronto Scarborough, Brian’s academic journey has been complicated by Crohn’s disease. Still, he has published research in the field of marine governance and climate change and has received grants and fellowships supporting his work, including the Ontario Graduate Scholarship and the Graduate Research Scholarship from the Royal Canadian Geographic Society. Additionally, Brian was invited as an expert reviewer for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s upcoming Special Report on the Oceans and Cryosphere. An active member of the UTSC community, Brian has mentored junior graduate students in his department who also live with Crohn’s. He has also served on his department’s Research Committee, organized its annual student research conference, and has taught university-level courses at UTSC and the University of Edinburgh. In the future, Brian hopes to become a professor and environmental policy researcher, a possibility which he believes owes directly to the help and support he has received from his doctors, academic advisors, friends, and family.

    Daniel Stuart - University of Calgary

    Daniel Stuart
    Daniel’s ulcerative colitis diagnosis was the first in a series of health-related challenges. Several years ago, he developed dermatitis, which resulted in alopecia universalis, a condition that causes full-body hair loss. During his most recent colitis flare-up, a rare medication side effect caused CNS demyelination, leaving him, at the time, effectively blind and unable to walk. Daniel also lives with primary sclerosing cholangitis, a liver disease that causes inflammation in the bile ducts. Despite the challenges posed by his diagnoses, Daniel continuously strives for the best. He has learned to face adversity with a positive attitude, as oftentimes the one thing you can control is your own reaction. Currently, Daniel is an instructor at UNDRCARD Boxing Studio and Yoga Passage. He uses this platform as a way to advocate and educate about inflammatory bowel disease, chronic illness, and healthy coping. Daniel also volunteers with Kids Cancer Care, providing tutoring services and helping out with day programs and weekend camps. In the fall, Daniel will return to the University of Calgary for his third year in the Bachelor of Nursing program. Inspired by the Nurse Practitioners (NPs) involved in his healthcare journey, Daniel hopes to become a NP himself and work with paediatric gastrointestinal patients, leveraging his lived experience and professional judgment to provide a unique framework of care.

    James Sousa - University of British Columbia

    James Sousa
    James found his calling through his Crohn’s disease. Diagnosed at 12, he quickly became involved with Crohn’s and Colitis Canada. He soon became a familiar face at our education events, and as he grew older, he transitioned from being an audience member to an event organizer. To James, the researchers that shared their knowledge and their colleagues were inspirational. He soon realized that his future lied in the field of medicine, where he could help others living with inflammatory bowel disease. In the fall, James will enter his first year in the Bachelor of Medical Laboratory Science program at the University of British Columbia. His studies will focus human disease and treatment, placing James in an excellent position to pursue a career in medicine, whether it be on the bench or the bedside. Outside of the classroom, James is an active volunteer and patient advocate. In 2014, he was elected Honorary Chair for the Vancouver Gutsy Walk. In 2017, he volunteered at the Invisible Conditions Conference, an event that aims to empower, educate, and support youth with invisible conditions. And every June, despite the heat, he dons a Dr. Bear costume to put a smile on the kids’ faces at the Gutsy Walk.

    Jason Isaacs - Dalhousie University

    Jason Isaacs
    Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) has always been a constant in Jason’s life. During his childhood, his mother was in and out of the hospital, having to undergo multiple surgeries for her ulcerative colitis. He became her advocate. Then, in 2014, Jason was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. As he educated himself further on his diagnosis, he identified gaps in research in this field. Jason made it his mission to close these gaps. A year later, he entered the graduate Clinical Psychology program at Dalhousie University. At first, he studied sleep, an area that was particularly impacted by his IBD symptoms. Based on his learnings, he created an online session intended to help children and their parents sleep better, and provided evidence-based psychotherapy for clients with sleep disorders. Now, his research focus has shifted to prescription opioids (painkillers). Through focus groups, he aims to identify needs in education, resources, and healthcare interactions related to opioid use. Outside of his research, Jason acts as a phone coach for individuals struggling with obesity and conducts psychological assessments for live organ donors. He frequently attends educational webinars about IBD and is an active participant and volunteer in the annual Crohn’s and Colitis Canada Gutsy Walk.

    Kwestan Safari - Simon Fraser University

    Kwestan Safari
    We all have our heroes. For Kwestan, born and raised in a refugee camp in Iraq, the biggest heroes were the foreign volunteer doctors. Their selfless generosity shone a beacon of healing and hope on an inarguably bleak environment. These doctors encouraged Kwestan to envision a future outside of the camp. So when her family’s immigration application was approved, she saw it as a gift: the opportunity to get an education and pursue her dreams. However, after living for some time in Canada, Kwestan was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. She felt beaten, battered, and hopeless once again. It was her gastroenterologist who, like the volunteer doctors, believed in Kwestan, encouraging her to find purpose once more. Since 2016, Kwestan has volunteered with Crohn’s and Colitis Canada, running a support group and facilitating information sessions. At Regional GUTS, she connected with the research community. Now, she is involved with two projects: one that aims to better understand the experience of patients with IBD, and another that aims to investigate the role of the microbiota in immune system modulation. In 2017, Kwestan founded a non-profit organization that funds an orphanage in Iraq to pay homage to her roots—the country that taught her resilience. This fall, she will be entering her fifth year of the Honours Molecular Biology and Biochemistry program at Simon Fraser University.

    Peter Dobranowski - University of Ottawa

    Peter Dobranowski
    Peter has come a long way from his first day of university. He began his freshman year with stabbing pains radiating from his bowel, leading to missed classes, lost friends, and rapidly deteriorating mental health. Eventually, he had to make a decision: continue in this downward spiral, or leave school to focus on recovery. He ended up choosing the latter—but it was just a minor setback. Through powerlifting, Peter learned the importance of sleep, diet, and knowing his limits. With the support of his family, doctor, and medication, he achieved full remission and returned to school, going on to complete an Honours Bachelors in Nutritional Science and a Masters in Experimental Medicine. His academic achievements include three first-name publications, four invited poster presentations, and four invited oral presentations. Peter is also deeply involved with the Crohn’s and colitis community. After being elected Honorary Chair for the 2015 Fraser Valley West Gutsy Walk, he served as Chapter President for four years. During this time, he initiated a project that aims to increase the South Asian population’s access to Crohn’s and colitis-related resources. In the fall, Peter will begin the next chapter of his life halfway across the country at the University of Ottawa, where he is entering the Microbiology and Immunology PhD program. He is excited to further his education while continuing to work on his community access initiative remotely.

    Rachel Szwimer - McGill University

    Rachel Szwimer
    At 20 years old, Rachel was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. After attending events hosted by Generation C and the Montreal Chapter of Crohn’s and Colitis Canada, Rachel realized that a significant number of the youth in Montreal are impacted by inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). As a young adult experiencing IBD-related pain herself, she embarked on a Master of Science degree at McGill University during which she studied how chronic pain conditions influence the social and psychological development of adolescents. Rachel has helped give voice to these young adults, working closely with the Montreal Children’s Chronic Pain Management team to discuss the implementation of future educational programs that can help improve the experiences of those living with chronic pain during their most formative years. In 2019, she won the Best Knowledge Translation Prize for her work in aspiring to improve services offered to adolescents with chronic pain in collaboration with the Montreal Children’s Hospital Chronic Pain Management Clinic. Throughout her Masters research project, Rachel recognized that many of the young adolescents living with chronic pain turned to their artistic hobbies to distract them from their pain. As a young artist herself, Rachel hopes to facilitate art therapy programs within the Montreal IBD community – an initiative that would blend her artistic and scientific passions as she now embarks on a medical career at McGill University in Fall 2019.

    Taylor Stocks - Memorial University

    Taylor Stocks
    Taylor realized something was wrong in 2017. Having managed an assortment of illnesses since their late teens, Taylor’s doctor dismissed their new symptoms as non-issues. Eight months later, they ended up back in the hospital, diagnosed with severe fistulising ulcerative pancolitis. After getting discharged, Taylor set their sights on recrafting their life: by shifting priorities, practicing saying no, and managing diet, they learned how to cope with their newest diagnosis. The time they took to focus on their health has allowed Taylor to return to their activism and advocacy work with renewed energy. Taylor serves as the Chair of the Inclusion Committee for the City of St. John’s and sits on the Equity and Diversity Committee at Memorial University. They are open about their experiences as a trans and gender-nonconforming person with chronic illness in hopes of cultivating an environment of empathy, which in turn creates a safer space for others to share their own stories. In early 2019, Taylor was deemed a Community Service Warrior by a feminist theatre collective in recognition of their activism. This fall, they will enter the second year of the PhD in Education program at Memorial University while continuing to fight fiercely for a future where all voices are heard and more inclusive environments exist for everyone.

    Theresa Engel-Wood - University of Calgary

    Theresa Engel-Wood
    “Still I rise.” These words have been Theresa’s mantra for many years. Challenges can come in many forms, but one of Theresa’s biggest obstacles is her health. Diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at 17, she thought the disease had stolen her future but with the support of her doctors, she began a drug protocol, changed her eating habits, and realized that nothing could stop her from living the life she wanted. At 18, she spent a year in Sweden. At 19, she returned to Canada and began to pursue her Bachelor of Arts. At 22, she gave birth to her daughter and started raising her as a single mom. Seven years later, she returned to school for her Bachelor of Education. As an early years teacher, in addition to her classroom duties, she educates students and teachers alike about the importance of wellness, using mindfulness strategies such as meditation and yoga. Theresa was invited to join a cohort of top-tier, innovative educators who research and reflect on new teaching methods. As Theresa’s list of achievements continued to grow, her ulcerative colitis maintained a constant presence—but in spite of the constant flare-ups, chronic fatigue and pain, Theresa is living life to the fullest. This fall, she will begin pursuing her Master of Education in Educational Neuroscience at the University of Calgary.



    Kristin Bridges - Queen's University

    Kristin Bridges
    Being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease taught Kristin the importance of perseverance as rather than viewing the diagnosis as a disability, Kristin chose to view it as an opportunity to act as a positive voice for not only people living with inflammatory bowel disease, but for anyone taking on a challenge or facing a hardship. Kristin’s determination to not let the diagnosis change her outlook on life is evident as for the past eight years she’s been actively involved in her local community and school community. She’s held a leadership position with 19 clubs and participated as a leader on 64 sports teams. She is currently an executive member of Queen's University Arts and Science Undergraduate Society's Crohn's and Colitis Committee. Kristin has spent over 790 hours volunteering with over 31 different organizations, such as Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Boys and Girls Club, all while maintaining excellent grades. Entering her fifth year of Queen’s University’s Bachelor of Education (Concurrent) Program in the fall of 2018, Kristin’s aspires to become a teacher in order to continue making a positive impact in her community and to share the important life lessons she’s learned through her diagnosis with others.

    Ashley Clark - University of Victoria 

    Ashley Clark
    Receiving a diagnosis six years ago came with a sense of relief for Ashley as she finally had an answer to her unexplained symptoms. Treatment for Crohn’s disease did not come easy for Ashley as after a number of medications failed, the only option left was surgery. Through research and hearing from other young women, Ashley realized despite its new challenges, an ostomy would give her control and freedom. Throughout her journey with Crohn’s, Ashley decided to raise awareness about inflammatory bowel disease by volunteering at events including the 2017 Gutsy Walk and, most recently, by becoming a Youth Engagement Lead with Crohn’s and Colitis Canada. Ashley’s also volunteered with the Lifetime Support Network and the University of Victoria’s 101 Program. While attending the University of British Columbia, she volunteered with the BC Children’s Hospital, the Social Health Lab and UBC’s Undergraduate Journal of Psychology. Ashley is currently completing a Master of Arts Degree in Social Dimensions of Health at the University of Victoria as she’s eager to contribute to research which will help guide people who are making life-changing decisions related to their health. As a next step, Ashley plans to complete a Master of Counselling.

    Sarah Jane Downton - Acadia University

    Sarah Jane Downton
    Sarah Jane turned a medical challenge into an opportunity to help others as she decided to pursue an undergraduate degree in nutrition and dietetics after being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 2014. Her decision was solidified after suffering a stroke in 2017, which left her in a coma for six weeks and led to a year-long rehabilitation period. Along with affecting her language and communication skills, the stroke impacted Sarah Jane’s ability to eat. It was through the process of relearning how to eat that Sarah Jane saw first-hand the important role dietitians have in patient recovery. Sarah Jane has openly shared her story while volunteering with the Wolfville Farmers Market, St. Clare’s Mercy Hospital, Crohn’s and Colitis Canada and the S.M.I.L.E Program. Sarah Jane has a lengthy list of academic accomplishments under her belt including making the Acadia University Faculty of Pure and Applied Science Deans’ List in 2017. Determined to help other people with their own medical journey, Sarah Jane, who lives in St. John’s, NL, hopes to become a registered dietitian and intends to obtain a master’s degree in the future.

    Emma Moore - University of Prince Edward Island 

    Emma Moore
    Emma has struggled with ongoing health issues since she was ten years old. During her first year at the University of Prince Edward Island, Emma’s symptoms intensified before finally being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. During her recovery, Emma realized she could either let the diagnosis act as an obstacle or a catalyst. Emma chose the latter. After falling in love with running, she joined the university’s varsity cross country team. Emma’s passion for running did not go unnoticed as she was awarded Rookie of the Year during her first year with the team and received Most Valuable Player the following year. Eager to help people living with inflammatory bowel disease or other conditions which cause incontinence, Emma became the first ambassador for Crohn’s and Colitis Canada’s GoHere Washroom Access Program in Prince Edward Island. Within the first month, Emma registered nine businesses and received media coverage from CBC for her efforts. Beyond her involvement with Crohn’s and Colitis Canada, Emma volunteers with Sports Centre Physiotherapy, Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. After completing her undergraduate degree, Emma plans to pursue a Masters in Physiotherapy.

    Navjit Moore - University of British Columbia

    Navjit Moore
    The phrase ‘knowledge is power’ holds many meanings. For Navjit having the power of knowledge to help patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and other autoimmune diseases is why she strives for academic success. Navjit is currently completing the four-year Entry-to-Practice Doctor of Pharmacy degree offered at the University of British Columbia as she hopes to pursue a career as a pharmacist. She aims to help patients living with autoimmune diseases by becoming involved in IBD pharmaceutical research. Her commitment to research is clear as she was awarded the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Undergraduate Student Research Awards in the summer of 2017. This award enabled her to work on two research projects focused on IBD. Navjit continues to share her story while volunteering at the Burnaby General Hospital and with the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada as a Jump Rope for Heart Ambassador. She remains actively involved in the IBD community as she is a Gutsy Walk volunteer and a Chapter President with Crohn’s and Colitis Canada. Through these experiences, Navjit continuously shared the message that with the power of knowledge and perseverance, you can overcome adversity and pursue your passion in life.

    Kayleigh Pink - University of Ottawa

    Kayleigh Pink
    Kayleigh considers being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at the age of nine as both a burden and a blessing. As an individual who loves to learn, Kayleigh was disappointed when the severity of her symptoms prevented her from attending school. However, the diagnosis also taught Kayleigh to prioritize her health. Determined to not let the disease interfere with her love for learning and desire to share this passion with others, Kayleigh started her own tutoring business. She also became a Peer Assisted Study Session Facilitator while completing her undergraduate degree at Carleton University. After remaining on the Deans’ Honour List throughout university and receiving the King McShane Academic Scholarship, it’s no surprise Kayleigh will begin her law degree at the University of Ottawa in the fall of 2018. Her experience working as a private tutor, a volunteer at the Wabano Aboriginal Health Centre, an assistant counselor at Dragonfly Learning Centre and as a child, youth and family worker at the YMCA has inspired Kayleigh to use law as a tool to advocate for children’s rights.

    Evan Rootenberg - Ryerson University

    Evan Rootenberg
    From remaining on the academic honour roll throughout high school to receiving early acceptance to the competitive Sports Media Program (BA) offered by Ryerson University’s RTA School of Media, Evan has achieved many of his goals all while living with ulcerative colitis. As an avid sports enthusiast, Evan is eager to kick-off his career in sports media. He plans to use his career as a platform to generate awareness and support for people living with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Described by his peers as positive and hardworking, Evan has given back to his community by volunteering with a number of not-for-profits, including Crohn’s and Colitis Canada and the Friendship Circle. As a resilient individual who acknowledges the physical and psychological struggles associated with IBD, Evan refuses to let the diagnosis he received in 2006 prevent him from achieving his academic, career and lifestyle goals.

    Natalie Sousa - University of British Columbia 

    Natalie Sousa
    Natalie refuses to allow Crohn’s disease, which she was diagnosed with at the age of seventeen, prevent her from thriving at work, enjoying her favorite activities or succeeding academically. While managing her symptoms during the first two years of university, Natalie became determined to use her experiences as a way to make a positive impact on the lives of other people living with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). In fact, these experiences solidified her decision to enroll in the Registered Dietitian Program at the University of British Columbia (UBC). Natalie’s established many career goals which range from working in the health care system to provide care for people living with chronic diseases to one day providing care to people living with IBD by opening a private clinic supported by gastroenterologists and nurses. As Natalie enjoys being involved in her community, she has volunteered with Crohn’s and Colitis Canada’s Vancouver Chapter for five years and helped organize the 2017 Invisible Conditions Conference, a student-led event at UBC focused on inspiring, supporting and educating youth living with IBD.

    Claudia Tersigni - University of Toronto 

    Claudia Tersigni
    After being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at the age of ten, Claudia knew she wanted to pursue a career as a pediatric gastroenterologist. She believes living with Crohn’s has given her the tenacity, resilience and strength to pursue this goal. Claudia is currently working at The Hospital for SickKids while completing a Master of Science – Cell Biology at the University of Toronto. The Hospital for SickKids is a familiar territory for Claudia as she’s volunteered in clinical IBD research at the hospital since she was sixteen years old. Amongst her many notable accomplishments, Claudia’s received the Gordon Cressy Student Leadership Award from the University of Toronto for her involvement with the Accessibility Services and Neuroscience Student Association. Claudia supports her local community by volunteering for a variety of events, including Crohn’s and Colitis Canada’s annual Gutsy Walk. Committed to promoting equality of opportunity, Claudia’s reached out to parliament to advocate for legislation which would allow anyone with a medical emergency to have access to employee-only washrooms.

    Adrian Bulfon - Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, Western University

    Adrian Bulfon
    Adrian Bulfon has always had a passion for science. When he was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at the age of 16, he was initially distraught. Instead of letting it overwhelm him, Adrian decided to focus on his scientific ambitions with the goal of becoming a gastroenterologist and IBD researcher. He hopes to make a difference in the lives of people living with Crohn’s and colitis. Adrian is now attending the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry and is one step closer to achieving his goal. When he is not in class, Adrian stays busy playing sports and gives back to the IBD community by participating in various activities and support groups. Adrian also advocates for people living with Crohn’s and colitis and was invited to the National Consultation on Accessibility Legislation in Ottawa.

    Alexandra Cohen - McGill University

    Alexandra Cohen
    At only eight years old, Alexandra Cohen's life direction changed when she was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. Alexandra was inspired to become a pediatric doctor, with the goal of improving the quality of life for children with chronic illnesses, particularly after observing the suffering of others around her and being a patient herself. She spent the past year studying in McGill's pre-med program, during which time she served as VP Academics of her cohort and also contributed to the organization of a charity fashion show, raising $7,000 for Anorexia and Bulimia Quebec. She has now been accepted into medical school at age 19. As an active member of the Crohn's and Colitis Canada community, Alexandra volunteers at the Montreal Gala annually and has helped with fundraising and educational events. Last year, she was awarded the Terry Fox Humanitarian Award after having dedicated over 400 hours to helping various populations, including patients with advanced dementia and children with disabilities.

    Shira Gertsman - University of Ottawa

    Shira Gertsman
    After Shira was diagnosed with IBD she realized that having this disease didn’t mean she had lost her strength; she just had to learn how to apply it differently. By coming to this realization, Shira was able to excel and find fulfilment in her life and strived to make a difference in other people’s lives. This empathy drew Shira to volunteer at various locations including local shelters where she is a volunteer tutor, helps prepare food, and teaches music to young and disabled children. As a biomedical science student, Shira also seeks to help people by designing diagnostic equipment. Although Shira acknowledges that she cannot do everything she wants, she knows she can sincerely care about everything she does.

    Hjordis Hentschel - University of Lethbridge

    Hjordis Hentschel
    When Hjordis Hentschel thinks of academic success, she thinks beyond just getting good grades. For her, it represents the hard work and dedication she puts into her schoolwork, which gives her the greatest sense of pride. With a diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease, Hjordis had to work extra hard to achieve her academic success. Outside of the classroom, Hjordis founded the University of Lethbridge’s Gutsy Club helping those living with Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome. Hjordis hopes that by creating the Gutsy Club, fellow students living with these conditions will seek the support they need. Hjordis also participated in this year’s Gutsy Walk and participates in online support groups in both English and German.

    Leslie Hernandez - National Theatre School of Canada

    Leslie Hernandez
    Although Leslie Hernandez views her diagnosis of ulcerative colitis as one of her most challenging moments, she also sees it as one of the most rewarding. After enduring painful and embarrassing symptoms for several months, Leslie was finally diagnosed while visiting her mother over the Christmas holiday break. Although it was difficult at first, Leslie realized her only option was to keep moving forward and to be strong. With a chemistry degree and an arts management certificate under her belt, Leslie is now fulfilling her dream of attending the National Theatre School where she hopes to become a stage manager. Leslie attributes this leap to the strength her colitis gave her and she is ready to realize her wildest dreams.

    Timothy Ireland - University of Winnipeg

    Timothy Ireland
    Timothy Ireland had to learn how to balance being a student with being an athlete. In class, he has to buckle down and work hard on achieving good academic standing. On the basketball court, he has to fight for physical strength and stamina. On top of all this, Timothy has to try and achieve this balance while living with ulcerative colitis. Not wanting to be hindered by his colitis, Timothy also gives back by taking on many volunteer endeavors. Timothy works as a university ambassador, coaches youth basketball internationally in England and Italy, and helped organize a TEDx event at the University of Winnipeg. Timothy also participated in the 2017 Gutsy Walk with his friends to raise awareness of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis in Canada.

    Aleksandra Kacinska - Ryerson University

    Aleksandra Kacinska
    Aleksandra Kacinska believes that storytelling can have profound changes in both the IBD community and at a national level. Aleksandra wants to change the dialogue around talking about Crohn’s and colitis and not have people feel ashamed by their disease. This passion for inspiring others has led Aleksandra to pursue a degree in digital media creation and public relations. She hopes that her own experience living with Crohn’s disease, paired with her education, will allow her to continue to raise awareness for those also living with these diseases. As the Digital Outreach Lead for Crohn’s and Colitis Canada’s Peel chapter, Aleksandra also strives to help others through sharing stories and inspiring posts on social media.

    Najla Kanaan - Wilfrid Laurier University

    Najla Kanaan
    Najla Kanaan has a deep passion for helping others. Living with ulcerative colitis, and being the daughter of immigrant parents, she understands that despite best intentions, a lack of knowledge around this disease can create fear and shame. This is the reason why Najla strives to help other immigrant youth living with Crohn’s and colitis not feel alone or weak. Based on her own experiences, she has started a peer support program to help people talk with their families and communities about Crohn’s and colitis. Through this program, Najla has been able to build a strong support network of young people living with IBD. As a Master’s of Social Work student at Wilfred Laurier University, Najla will continue to help others in need.

    Gillian McKirdy - City University in Canada

    Gillian McKirdy
    Gillian McKirdy knows how to manage a busy schedule. A student, a mother of three, and a yoga instructor, Gillian balances it all while living with Crohn’s disease. After years of struggling with symptoms, Gillian now lives with a permanent ileostomy which has greatly improved her health. Gillian also dedicates much of her time volunteering for various organizations such as the Calgary Distress Centre and the Chinook Hospice. Gillian is currently completing her Masters of Counselling degree and is looking to become a registered psychologist. Her aim is to work with people dealing with disabilities and chronic illnesses, such as Crohn’s and colitis. Gillian also took part in this year’s Gutsy Walk along with her team, The Down Dogs.

    Emma Neary - Queen's University

    Emma Neary
    Emma Neary has had many accomplishments for someone who just finished high school. Emma is a recipient of the Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award, completed a semester at Harvard University summer school, is a leader of the Peace and Justice Coalition, and served as the high school coordinator for the Memorial University World Health Organization Society. Emma was able to do all this while living with Crohn’s disease. When Emma was first diagnosed she missed a lot of school but was able to catch up and excel in her classes. Emma is now off to Queen’s University where she will take part in the QuARMS program where she will enter medical school in her third year.

    Elliot Pitter - Dalhousie University

    Elliot Pitter
    Although Elliot Pitter was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease when he was 13 years old, he wanted to make sure he gave back to the community. He co-starred in an educational video on NG tube feeding created by the IWK Hospital, gave talks to newly diagnosed kids and participated in various studies. His rationale: maybe he could make it easier for the next kid. A former camper of Brigadoon Village’s Guts and Glory Camp, Elliot went on to become a camp counsellor for four summers. As a camp counselor, Elliot has been able to teach and learn from other campers living with Crohn’s and colitis, as well as other chronic illnesses. Elliot is studying mechanical engineering, and because of his own experience with Crohn’s disease, he is interested in pursuing biomedical engineering.

    Joseph Shaw - Dalhousie University

    Joseph Shaw
    Joseph Shaw is a 28 year old business graduate who has spent the last few years working in marketing and sales. In the fall he will be attending Dalhousie University in Halifax to study nursing. Diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at the age of 11, Joseph understands the challenges faced by people who experience their own medical struggles. He also helps others by volunteering with the Ostomy Halifax Society. Given his own experience with ostomy surgery, Joseph works with children and families going through the same procedure as a National Certified Ostomy Visitor and also works with Brigadoon Village at their camp for children living with Crohn’s, colitis, and ostomies. Joseph hopes his own positive outlook on living with Crohn’s disease will allow him to excel as a nurse and continue to help others.

    Veronica Slade - University of Regina

    Veronica Slade
    Diagnosed in her senior year of high school, Veronica Slade understands the ups and downs that come with living with inflammatory bowel disease. Shortly after beginning her social work degree, Veronica experienced one of her worst flare-ups, which landed her in the hospital. Despite this, Veronica was able to maintain her grades from her hospital room. Even after undergoing ostomy surgery, Veronica was soon back to continuing her studies. Her experience living with IBD and as a new ostomate has inspired her to give back to these communities. She works with her local ostomy society and is helping revamp their hospital program for people going through similar experiences. Veronica also participates in the Gutsy Walk and was able to complete it just 12 weeks after her surgery.

    Aaron Slobodin - Quest University Canada

    Aaron Slobodin
    Aaron Slobodin has a passion for math. As a mathematics major at Quest University Canada, Aaron has been able to conduct research in pure and applied mathematics. As someone living with ulcerative colitis and recurring C. difficile, he knows the value of time management and the importance of a strong work ethic. These time management skills have allowed him to excel academically, even during difficult times and flare-ups. Aaron hopes to continue his learning and pursue graduate school in pure mathematics. Having recently been awarded a spot in the Budapest Semesters in Mathematics program, Aaron is excited to represent his university, Canada, and the IBD community.

    Antoine Lapointe - Université du Québec à Montréal

    Antoine Lapointe
    Antoine is no stranger to life’s challenges. From a young age Antoine struggled to keep up in school and quickly feel behind his fellow classmates. Despite this, Antoine decided to not give up, work closely with a tutor, and become the first person in his family to be accepted to university.

    Antoine’s journey through school met another major setback when he was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at the age of 21 resulting in his hospitalization. The combination of stressful classes and a full workload had left Antoine under a lot of pressure which was negatively affecting his health. He decided to concentrate solely on school and allow his body to heal.

    Now that Antoine has regained his health, he has continued to focus on his studies. Studying Urban Planning, Antoine hopes to help others achieve a higher quality of life through creating city spaces that better suit people’s needs. He believe that sustainable development will help engage future generations.

    Azalech Boyana - Ryerson University

    Azalech Boyana
    Azalech experienced her first life changing journey when she came to Canada as a refugee from Ethiopia. As a newcomer to Canada, Azalech had to adjust to new customs, cultures, and to her new surroundings. After many ups and downs, Azalech was able to become a permanent resident of Canada, secure a job in her field, and was able to volunteer with newcomers who were also struggling to settle in Canada.

    Azalech experienced her second life changing journey when she was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. After experiencing many symptoms, Azalech was finally able to find the right medications for her and ultimately regain control of her health and better understand her disease.

    Now as a student at Ryerson University in the Early Childhood Studies MA program, Azalech hopes to build on her experience and education so she can continue to mentor, empower, and support children. She also hopes to give back to her community and continue to educate them on Crohn’s and colitis, and help break down those stigmas associated with these diseases.

    Caroline Evans - Dalhousie University

    Caroline Evans
    Caroline Evans, a third year medical student, uses her experience living with Crohn’s disease to better relate to patients. Diagnosed at 14, 24-year-old Caroline empathizes with different aspects of chronic disease such as what it means to live with daily symptoms, disease complications, insurance and drug coverage issues, and scheduling required appointments and tests. Although it has been a bumpy road since her diagnosis, Caroline believes that she lives a good life with Crohn’s disease.

    While studying to become a doctor, Caroline enjoys staying active and focuses on her physical and mental wellness. She is passionate about running, skiing, and working out at the gym, as well as managing a healthy diet. Caroline volunteers with Big Brothers- Big Sisters, a local elementary school’s Healthy-Living program, and has led a fundraiser for Syrian Refugees’ health needs with her fellow classmates.

    Darrah Horobetz - University of Winnipeg

    Darrah Horobetz
    Darrah began her journey with Crohn’s disease when she was just 13 years old. Suffering from the various symptoms for seven months, Darrah was finally diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Although Darrah was frustrated when she was first diagnosed, she has learned to accept the disease and the strength it has instilled in her.

    Since her diagnosis, Darrah has gone on to attend university at the University of Winnipeg. As a full time student, she also finds the time to work 30-40 hours per week and give back to the community by volunteering for Crohn’s and Colitis Canada. As a fundraising and volunteer coordinator, Darrah successfully organized the Bud, Spud, and Steak event in Winnipeg which raised over $4000.

    Although the time since Darrah was diagnosed has been hard on her, she has not let it slow her down or hinder her from obtaining her goals. Darrah believes that her disease is only a piece of who she is and does not define her.

    Jack Kerr - Queen's University

    Jack Kerr
    Jack understands the ups and downs of living with Crohn’s and colitis. A flare up can leave you emotionally and physically drained while the prospect of a relapse is always in the back of your mind, even when in remission. These were the challenges Jack would come to face after being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at the age of 17.

    Now studying Life Science at Queen’s University, Jack aspires to be a gastroenterologist so he can help others facing similar challenges and obstacles he has faced. Ultimately, he wants to be an ulcerative colitis success story and inspire others.

    Through his volunteer work, Jack has already begun his work inspiring others. He has worked with organizations such as the Boys & Girls Club, Horizon Health Network, and the Don Connolly Golf Academy and is currently involved with Canada East Spine Research Centre and Brigadoon Village. Jack is also the co-chair of the Queen’s Crohn’s and Colitis Committee for the upcoming year and has raised almost $2,000 for the Gutsy Walk. Jack is also involved with the Kingston Chapter while at school and the Saint John Chapter when his is back at home in New Brunswick.

    Although Jack understand the challenges of living with these diseases, he wants to show others that it is possible to have a normal and fulfilling life.

    Lacy Brandt - Pacific Rim College

    Lacy Brandt
    Lacy Brandt has to juggle lots of things: from being a full-time Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine student, to working part-time, to volunteering and maintaining extracurricular activities, she has a lot on her plate!

    After being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and having major surgery, Lacy’s life dramatically changed but she was determined to take her health into her own hands. She began volunteering with Crohn’s and Colitis Canada and would educate her classmates on these diseases. Lacy has been involved with the Calgary and Victoria chapters, participated in the Gutsy Walk and in a video presented at the Calgary Gala where she was able to speak about her experience living with Crohn’s disease. Through volunteering, she also received valuable peer support which provided her the confidence to continue to reach out and help others.

    Although stress can still affect her health, Lacy manages this by taking care of herself. This includes hiking, dancing, practicing yoga, and spending time at the beach.

    Luke Knock - Nova Scotia Community College

    Luke Knock
    “Hey, it could always be worse.” This is the attitude Luke has when addressing his Crohn’s disease. Diagnosed in the sixth grade, Luke and his family would go on to experience other health challenges. From his brother being diagnosed with Crohn’s shortly before him, his mother’s own battle with cancer, to his uncle losing his battle with cancer, Luke has had to endure a lot.

    Through the years of struggle, Luke was determined to stay focused on his school work as to not fall behind. He was also able to maintain the activities he loved doing, like soccer, basketball, and playing drums. He was even able to take on new challenges like playing hockey and baseball.

    Luke has also been able to give back to his community. He and his family take part in the annual Gutsy Walk and has encouraged other members in his community to contribute. Every summer Luke also serves as a camp counsellor through his church where he is able to encourage the campers to pursue their own passions despite their hardships.

    Michaelis Hurst - University of Victoria at Aurora College

    Michaelis Hurst
    When Michaelis was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at the age of 19 she thought her life was over and she would never find happiness again. Although the last six years have been hard on Michaelis, her experience with Crohn’s has made her a stronger person and she feels happier than ever.

    Michaelis attributes her involvement in the Crohn’s and colitis community as having given her much strength to continue on her journey. While living in Winnipeg, MB, Michaelis got involved with her local chapter by attending meetings, and volunteering at the M&M BBQ and yearly gala. Michaelis was able to find the support she needed and even became her local support group president when she returned to her hometown.

    Now living in Yellowknife, NT, Michaelis also works with local gastroenterologists, nurses, dieticians, doctors, and other members of her community to increase the support in her area. As a nursing student, Michaelis also hopes to continue inspiring others and help them achieve wellness.

    Rachel Chisholm - University of Guelph

    Rachel Meehan
    Despite being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease over ten years ago, Rachel made a promise to herself that her disease would not hold her back. Since then Rachel has gone on to complete her undergraduate degree, a graduate certificate, travelled to three continents, advanced in her career, moved twice, and is now finishing up her master’s degree.

    Rachel has also found the time to give back to her community. As a member of the Crohn’s and Colitis Canada Sudbury Chapter, Rachel has been able to be involved in various events. They include hosting the “Let’s Do Brunch” program in Toronto, serving as the Media Captain for Sudbury’s Gutsy Walk (as well as being a Top Pledge Earner!), and speaking at the launch of PACE at Mount Sinai in Toronto, ON.

    Through Rachel’s hard work and advocacy, she continues to inspire others. Ultimately, Rachel hopes to show others that it is possible to achieve your dreams despite living with chronic illness.

    Shantz Bennett - Memorial University of Newfoundland

    Shantz Bennett
    When Shantz was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at the age of 14 he had many concerns. Was this contagious? Could I pass this to my friends and family? Would I still be able to play high school hockey? Would I be able to keep up at school? For Shantz, it was a fight or flight situation.

    For Shantz, he chose fight! Through the help of his family, friends, teachers and physicians, Shantz was able to focus on his health and still be able to do the things he once loved. Shantz went on to become a life guard, preform with his school’s drama group, joined the navy cadets, and was even able to attend World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain.

    By choosing to fight, Shantz has been able to accomplish so much and give back to his community. Shantz believes that his experience with Crohn’s has given him new purpose and a positive outlook.

    Bernadette Woodman - St. Francis Xavier University

    Bernadette Woodman
    After lengthy hospital stays, countless tests, and procedures, Bernadette was finally diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at the age of eleven. Most kids her age would want nothing more than to never step foot in a hospital again, but not Bernadette. She loved the environment of the IWK Hospital in Halifax, NS; the buzz of the health team, the excitement of the activity around her, and the fact that the people there were saving lives. This experience would ultimately influence her passion for helping others.

    As Bernadette embarks on her next journey to St. Francis Xavier University where she plans to study nursing, she still clings onto the feelings of courage that her health team had given her when she was a young girl. It has become her new goal to instill courage in others who find themselves in similar situations.

    Bernadette’s experience when she was younger has also inspired her to give back to her community. She was able to share her story during the IWK Telethon, a televised fundraiser for the children’s hospital in Halifax, NS and would later go on to volunteer at the IWK in the summers. Bernadette also participated in the Crohn’s and Colitis Canada Gutsy Walk as a Top Pledge Earner and has raised over $4600.

    Gabriel Tobias - University of British Columbia

    Gabriel Tobias
    As a BC Forest Firefighter and National Fitness Trainer, a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease came as a shock to Gabriel. As a firefighter, he was accustomed to spending up to 21 days at a time in remote places without access to medical facilities. With his new diagnosis, Gabriel knew that he had to make a change in his career. After returning to school to gain extra prerequisite credits that he added to his undergraduate degree in Human Kinetics, Gabriel decided to embark on a new life journey; medical school.

    Gabriel’s journey so far has not been without complications. After tearing his ACL playing university rugby, he faced multiple surgeries to correct the issue. It was during this period of recovery that he first had the idea of helping others with physical limitations. He started the program accessABILITY where he provides free personal training and gym memberships for students with disabilities at his school, UBC Okanagan.

    Now on his journey to become a doctor, Gabriel hopes to continue to inspire others around him. He continues to maintain a healthy lifestyle and help others through accessABILITY and beyond.

    Jordan Faier - McGill University

    Jordan Faier
    For Jordan, his next big adventure is just around the corner.In just a few short months, Jordan will be packing his bags and heading to Melbourne, Australia to participate in an international exchange program. Although he has experienced many complications in the past 15 years following a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease at the age of 6, he is looking ahead to a bright future.

    From an early age Jordan has dedicated his time and effort to give back to his community. Having raised over $1500 for Crohn’s and Colitis Canada, he hopes to continue to spread awareness of these diseases both at home in Montreal and in Australia.

    Being diagnosed at such a young age, Jordan was inspired to pursue a degree in health science at McGill University. Following this, he wants to continue his education and study optometry at l’Universite de Montréal. Through his education, Jordan hopes to continue to help others.

    Now that he is about to head off to Australia, Jordan is inspired to educate a wider audience on the seriousness of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis and that nothing can stop you from following your dreams!

    Joseph D’Addario - York University

    Joseph D’Addario
    Inspiration can come in many different shapes and sizes. This is something that Joseph learned after his visit to L’Arche, an international organization that aims to help people with intellectual disabilities.

    Inspiration can also be tested during times of great challenge. Joseph would also come to realize this when he was first diagnosed with Crohn’s disease during his undergraduate degree and with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) earlier this year.

    Although Joseph has had to face two serious health challenges, he has continued to push forward. As a teacher and current student in the Masters of Arts program in Disability History, Joseph hopes to incorporate his first hand experience with Crohn’s and AML into the curriculum and to help promote washroom access and preventing negative stigma.

    Joseph has had the opportunity to inspire others through a trip to Kenya to build a school and teach the children in an underprivileged area. He has also helped to spread awareness on Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis through fundraising for the Gutsy Walk with his team Game of Crohn’s, earning the coveted Top Pledge Earner status, and participated in the ‘Let’s Do Brunch’ campaign in Toronto.

    Keara Maguire - Thompson Rivers University

    Keara Maguire
    At the age of 17, Keara had one goal in mind; the Olympics. As a competitive speed skater training with the National Speed Skating Team, Keara was taught to push herself to achieve her dreams. At the age of 20 her Olympic dreams began to dissolve when she was diagnosed with colitis. Although she continued to work through the symptoms and was named to the 2014 Olympic Talent Squad, Keara had to put all that on hold to focus on her health.

    Turning her attention to her academic career in healthcare, Keara hopes to inspire others who are facing similar challenges. As a respiratory therapy student, she is working her way towards a career as a Cardiovascular Perfusionist. Although colitis has provided many sets backs for Keara, she is determined to persevere and is helped by managing her nutrition, mental health, and staying physically active.

    Keara has served as a team leader at the M&M charity BBQ days, participated in the annual Crohn’s and Colitis Canada Gutsy Walk, and co-founded the fundraiser Canoeing for Crohn’s and Colitis. Altogether, she has helped raise over $8,000 to support Crohn’s and colitis research. Keara has also been engaged with the Crohn’s and colitis community through speaking engagements and is always looking for new ways to reach out to the community.

    Pénélope Houle - Université du Québec à Montréal

    Pénélope Houle
    Pénélope told herself that she would never sacrifice her education in the face of illness again. Pénélope has been determined to finish her degree by completing courses from home. Although Crohn’s disease has slowed the process down, she is more focused than ever to finish her degree. Upon completion of her degree, Pénélope plans to teach French and English abroad.

    Pénélope gained a head start on her dream when she planned a trip to teach children in Asia. It is her hope that by teaching children it will broaden their horizons. Pénélope put in a lot of time and hard work planning activities for the children and helped raise money for the school before she set off. Although her trip was cut short due to illness, she continued to help from back home in Canada. For example, Pénélope organized Skype calls with the children to help them practice their French.

    Pénélope’s desire to help others is also demonstrated locally. She has helped raise money for the annual Crohn’s and Colitis Canada Gutsy Walk and she is always willing to share her story to others. Pénélope’s hope is that by talking more openly about Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, the stigma will be removed.

    Rebecca Marsh - University of Alberta

    Rebecca Marsh
    “Mom, it’s just a disease, and I will handle it”. These are the words that Rebecca spoke when she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Although difficult at times, these words would later be used to remind Rebecca of her strength and perseverance during trying times.

    As a competitive figure skater, a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease at only 15 years old came as a hindrance to her athletic career. Despite this, Rebecca continued to push herself while living with a chronic disease. Now as a recent graduate of the Bachelor of Physical Education from the University of Alberta, she will continue her studies and begin the Adapted Physical Activity Master’s Program this fall.

    Rebecca’s athleticism and passion for physical activity is demonstrated not only in her studies, but also in her community involvement. She teaches group exercise classes, volunteers for Special Olympics and The Steadward Centre, as well as performs respite work for children living with Down Syndrome. Through her volunteer work and future studies, Rebecca hopes to inspire, empower and support others to become more physically active and to help break down barriers people experiencing disability face.

    Richelle Wagner - University of Alberta

    Richelle Wagner
    Richelle knows the meaning of hard work. As a member of the University of Alberta Augustana women’s basketball team, she has had to continually push herself, especially when experiencing the symptoms of ulcerative colitis.

    Diagnosed when she was younger, Richelle has managed her symptoms through fitness, healthy eating habits and increased sleep. This can be a challenge as she has had to balance a busy class load while dedicating over 25 hours a week to basketball.

    Richelle’s passion is also demonstrated off the court as she volunteers at the Women’s Shelter where she helps to organize games for the children there. She also volunteers at her school’s local youth basketball camp where she has the opportunity to teach and mentor kids. Richelle is also active in the Crohn’s and colitis community where she has taken part in the Crohn’s and Colitis Canada Gutsy Walk and M&M Charity BBQ Day.

    Ryan Nesbitt - Ryerson University

    Ryan Nesbitt
    Diagnosed at the age 4, Ryan can hardly remember a time when he didn’t have Crohn’s disease. Despite having Crohn’s for almost all of his life, he has persevered in order to reach his goals.

    For many years now, Ryan has been had been involved in the Crohn’s and Colitis Canada community. He participated in the annual Gutsy Walk and served as honorary chair at the Peel Region’s walk in his final year of high school. He also served as Gutsy Walk ambassador the following year. These events allowed for Ryan to be more comfortable talking about his illness and he was able to encourage others to share their stories.

    This passion for sharing his story has now followed Ryan to university. As a Film Studies major at Ryerson University, he is able to explore Crohn’s disease through film. Ryan created a short documentary chronicling Crohn’s disease in young people. He hopes this film will inspire others to learn more about this disease and to serve as a resource for those who are newly diagnosed.

    Sarah Bouchard - Queen's University

    Sarah Bouchard
    When Sarah was finishing her last year of high school her health took a major turn. After months of pain and fatigue, Sarah was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease just months before graduating.

    Although Sarah managed to get her health back on track, she did experience some bumps along the way. After obtaining her Bachelor of Education degree and a Graduate Diploma, she secured a job as a teacher. After four years of teaching, Sarah quickly realized the challenges of an unpredictable disease and not being able to access the washroom when needed.

    This challenge has led Sarah to a new career goal of working with students in a different capacity than classroom teaching. She is now entering the Professional Masters of Education program at Queen’s University and hopes that this new career change will allow her to spend more time volunteering.

    As an active volunteer with the Sudbury Crohn’s and Colitis Canada Chapter, Sarah has been able to help other members through social media, has participated in numerous Crohn’s and Colitis Canada Gutsy Walks, and has helped organize a local education event.

    Ben Nowrouzi - McMaster University  

    Ben Nowrouzi
    Ben was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at the age of 14, however his condition became more pronounced throughout his university years. This lead to substantial absences and ultimately required him to take time off for surgery. Ben viewed this challenge as a mixed blessing as this pivotal event led him to transform his health, his relationships with the community and his career goals.

    Eager to share his experiences, Ben created a student led group at the University of Toronto to increase communication, develop a rapport and provide mutual assistance to students living with Crohn’s or colitis. The group has helped members improve their self-image as they promote awareness on campus and online.

    Ellen Kuenzig - University of Calgary

    Ellen Kuenzig
    At an educational symposium for people living with Crohn’s disease, Ellen Kuenzig heard a persuasive speech from a doctor who studies the lives of young people living with IBD. That speech changed her perspective about what she could achieve despite her illness, and inspired her to follow her dream of going to medical school.

    At the symposium, she was able to interact with others who were facing the same challenges. Having lived with Crohn’s since she was 16 years old, it was a relief to no longer feel stigmatized and finally be able to emerge from her shell.

      Ellen is also an active member of the Crohn’s community through which she helps others who are dealing with the same disease. To Ellen, her research and volunteer work are ways that she can give back to others living with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

    Emily Heffernan - Queen's University

    Emily Heffernan
    The summer before university is supposed to be an exciting time for first year students, but it came with an unexpected challenge for Emily Heffernan. Two weeks before moving away to study at Queen’s University, Emily was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. During her first semester at Queen’s, Emily struggled with nausea, stomach pain, and side effects from her medication. She never imagined the way in which her condition would positively impact her future.

    Taking a proactive approach to managing her disease and symptoms, Emily joined the Queen’s Crohn’s and Colitis Committee and assisted with the Queen’s Engineering Mental Health Initiative. Emily assisted in planning fundraising events, helped other students living with Crohn’s or colitis, and generated ideas to improve the mental health of engineering students. Emily found strength in helping others who were going through experiences similar to her own.

    Freda Sakebow - University of Regina

    Freda Sakebow
    After a difficult childhood, a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease might seem like an unfair additional burden. Although it did feel that way initially, Freda now believes that her Crohn’s diagnosis was a “humble blessing in disguise”. Since learning of the disease in February 2007, Freda has overcome tremendous physical, emotional and mental pain to obtain her vision of balanced healthy, happy home and a productive career.

    Freda has changed her lifestyle and outlook on life in pursuit of better health and coping with her disease. Through this experience, Freda is able to help others – offering guidance on proper weight training and healthy eating.

    Michael Guglielmi-Wheeler - Brock University

    Michael Guglielmi-Wheeler
    As young boy, Michael’s mom taught him the importance of gratitude, empathy and sharing with those less fortunate. It was those values that helped him overcome the challenges associated with being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at the age of 14.

    Michael learned that a healthy lifestyle goes a long way toward helping control his disease. But it is his commitment to volunteering for a wide range of causes that helps him maintain his positive outlook on life despite managing a chronic illness.

    Michael donates his time to a variety of organizations, including Habitat for Humanity and Canadian Food for Children, alongside his active participation in the Peel Chapter of Crohn’s and Colitis Canada. His Gutsy Walk team – “Game of Crohn’s” – has raised over $25,000. Wherever possible, he combines his passion for helping others with travel, such as teaching English in impoverished areas of Costa Rica or taking YMCA campers on a portage in Muskoka.

    Michelle Louis - University of Manitoba

    Michelle Louis
    As she wrapped her arms around her expanding belly, Michelle Louis knew something else was going on inside her body. After countless trips to the hospital and in spite of assurance from the doctors, she firmly believed it was more than just pregnancy pain. When she was five months along in her pregnancy, Michelle was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease – a hard reality that inspired her to learn a lot about herself and tap into her inner strength.

    Michelle is the perfect example of the benefits of a positive attitude, hard work and willingness to help others. Although she first viewed Crohn’s disease as a curse, she persevered and focused on her health, using acupuncture for pain management and staying in close contact with her gastroenterologist, general practitioner, dietician and the nurses at her treatment clinic.

    Rachel LePage - Thompson Rivers University

    Rachel LePage
    Rachel LePage was no stranger to Crohn’s disease growing up, having witnessed her father battle the chronic disease for most of her young life. There are hereditary links to the disease, so she knew it was possible that she might also develop Crohn’s or colitis in the future. It was these experiences and her desire to help others that strongly influenced her decision to pursue a career in healthcare.

    During her third year of nursing school at Thompson Rivers University, Rachel went from being the nurse to being the patient when she was misdiagnosed with pancreatitis. This started the road to her eventual diagnosis of Crohn’s disease, which came only after much persistence with her physicians. Despite her new diagnosis, multiple medical treatments, an array of new medications, and a busy schedule raising her three-year-old daughter, Rachel finished her third year of nursing school with straight A’s!

    Sarah Carrigan - St. Francis Xavier University

    Sarah Carrigan
    Sarah Carrigan firmly believes that the physical health of the body is directly linked to the health of the mind and spirit.

    When Sarah learned that she had Crohn's disease at the age of 11, she decided to make the best of her new diagnosis. She needed a feeding tube, which meant that she was not able to hide her disease from others. Rather than isolate herself, Sarah took the opportunity to teach her classmates about Crohn's and help them better understand the disease. With a great support system of family, friends and teachers, Sarah continued living her life to the fullest. In her free time, she played basketball, taught Sunday school, took guitar lessons and went to summer camp, feeding tube in tow!

    Sarah is an active volunteer, lending her vocal and guitar talents to various charities and helping raise funds for Crohn's and Colitis Canada.

    Ariane Leroux-Boudreault -  Université du Québec à Montréal

    Ariane Leroux-Boudreault
    Ariane has always been passionate about helping sick children, either through research or therapy. In 2011, despite having been diagnosed six years prior with ulcerative colitis, she is currently pursuing a doctorate in psychology at the Université du Québec à Montréal. If obtaining a PhD can be difficult for someone who is in perfect health, for a person in poor health, it becomes a real challenge!

      Rather than fight the disease, Ariane encourages people with Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis to try to accept their condition and learn to live with it. For her, the only limits of the disease are those we impose upon ourselves. Over time, Ariane has learned to listen to her body, both physically and psychologically. The support of loved ones is crucial. Despite everything, with this approach Ariane was able to realize her lifelong dream.

    Élyse Potvin - Université de Montréal

    Élyse Potvin
    Élyse Potvin was only 6 years old when she experienced the first symptoms of Crohn's disease. With highs and lows and fluctuating health, the disease eventually progressed, requiring physicians to operate while she was still in her teens.

      Her personal encounter with Crohn’s disease has propelled Élyse to pursue a career in health. As she completes a medical degree at the University of Montreal’s campus in the Mauricie region, Elyse is committed to making the most of her medical training. An environmental activist at heart, she joined the Medical Student Group MEDVERT. A diligent and proactive student, Elyse also became a member of SCORP, a group that is dedicated to human rights and peace in the Mauricie region. Her diagnosis has not only pushed Élyse to want to take care of the health of others, but it has also triggered healthier lifestyle habits in her everyday life.

    Sarah Allen - University of New Brunswick

    Sarah Allen
    Doubled over in pain with fever-induced hallucinations, it took months for 14 year old Sarah to be diagnosed with Crohn’s. Spending more time in the hospital than in school as a teen, Sarah developed a great admiration for the nurses who helped to ease her pain and lessen the embarrassment she felt. After years of wishing to be just like them, Sarah leaped back into university at the age of 30 to obtain a nursing degree.

    Sitting next to the door in every class and relying on only protein shakes for nutrition during clinic hours, Sarah has kept her disease in check while remaining on the Dean’s list. She has, among many other accomplishments, been a peer mentor, the Nursing Society treasurer, and selected to represent her school at two nursing conferences. Perhaps most impressive, Sarah has done all of this while raising a daughter all on her own.     

    Callie Carkner - Brock University

    Callie Carkner
    Turning a Crohn's diagnosis into a life direction has helped Callie to create opportunity out of what most would have considered a big setback. Callie received her diagnosis after three years of painful symptoms and quickly found a new outlook on life and a new passion to help others living with IBD. Within 24 hours, Callie acted as a SickKids Hospital spokesperson at a major donor event for the Dreams Delivery Program, promoting the hospital and helping to raise awareness of IBD.

    Callie's goal of bringing awareness to the disease that has shaped her future continues to gain momentum as she studies Sports Management at Brock University. Here, she helped launch InvisAbilities, an organization that supports students living with hidden chronic diseases.

    Whether as a SickKids Ambassador or as a spokesperson for the IBD community, Callie continues to be a source of inspiration to all of those around her.

    Ashley Poffenroth - Queen's University

    Ashley Poffenroth
    Now a fourth year student at Queen’s University, Ashley was only 15 when she contracted a bacterial infection. The following year was spent in an out of the hospital, a challenging time for any teenager, but Ashley took it in stride and used the time to embrace her inner socialite. Attending “exclusive patient events” kept Ashley busy as she received diagnoses for appendicitis, pancreatitis, a septic abscess, and ultimately Crohn’s disease.

    Ashley’s extracurricular life continued to flourish in university, where she participated in intramurals sports, performed and choreographed with the dance club and acted as Director of Queen’s Project RED, a Heart and Stroke Foundation charity.

    A deep rooted passion to help others can be felt in all of Ashley’s endeavours, but most notably in her decision to pursue a career as a field nurse.

    Gil Yerushalmi - York University

    Gil Yerushalmi
    It was at the young age of seven that Gil received his Crohn's diagnosis and it came at an especially difficult time for the family – Gil’s older brother had suddenly passed away the previous year. Doctors attributed the stressful situation as having contributed to the disease’s onset.

    The road following Gil’s diagnosis was not an easy one, including a family move to Canada and a new language to learn. Young Gil, however, persevered and completed his secondary education as an honour roll student.

    Now studying Biomedical Science at York University, Gil is well on his way to becoming a physician – a position which he hopes will allow him to help patients with similar health issues. His summers are spent in the labs of the University of Toronto conducting cardiac physiology research and his free time is dedicated to helping those around him.

    Kevin Ram - University of Victoria

    Kevin Ram
    For Vancouver native Kevin, the serious problems caused by IBD have not slowed him down, but rather opened new doors. Attending the Easter Seals Camp Horizon, a place for children living with disabilities and chronic illnesses, led Kevin to find a place where he could make a difference. Through volunteering and working at the camp, Kevin built friendships to last a lifetime and helped to bring his positive outlook to other young kids living with illness.

    During this time, Kevin came to discover his true passion: to help these children, to coach them, and to guide their way into a bright future, just as had been done for him when he first came to the camp. Kevin became an advocate and spokesperson for children living with IBD, speaking at local events and helping families to navigate the rocky waters that come with a diagnosis. Working with both IDEAS and the BC Children’s Hospital, Kevin routinely visits new and old patients to offer his support and his personal advice.

    Marie-Michelle Blouin - Université de Montréal

    Marie-Michelle Blouin
    Diagnosed with Crohn’s at the age of 16, Marie-Michelle inadvertently found a new career choice in her disease. The many days spent in the hospital led her to seek out a profession in health. Committing all of her time to schoolwork, Marie-Michelle obtained her second Diploma of College Studies in only 8 months instead of the usual 2 years. IBD couldn’t get in the way of Marie-Michelle’s success who took any measures necessary, including recording her lessons and listening to them at home, in order to finish with a perfect score.

    After many introspective thoughts, Marie-Michelle came to the conclusion that doing well in her studies while being in good health were the only things that mattered to her. She decided to leave her job so that she could invest more time in physical activity. The results of this decision were outstanding – Marie-Michelle was able to completely eliminate her joint pain and diminish her daily fatigue.

    Jenna Rines - University of Toronto

    Jenna Rines
    In the three years since her ulcerative colitis diagnosis, Jenna has become an outspoken member of the community, making constant efforts to encourage others to join the conversation. Her super alter ego, @ColitiGirl on Twitter, is one of the many ways she strives to communicate with others living with IBD.

    From helping to organize early “Gutsy Walks” at Queens University, to holding executive positions at both Telephone Aid Line Kingston and InvisAbilities, Jenna has never let her inflammatory bowel disease get in the way of her goals.

    Accompanying Jenna on her journey to become a social worker is Sally the Stoma – the ileostomy she was given after having her large intestine removed. Jenna and Sally are now stable, and balance an active fitness routine with a gluten-free diet and enjoy relaxing hobbies to avoid the burnout that can so easily come to students affected by IBD. This focus on balance has allowed Jenna to contribute to two published academic papers, act as research assistant in the Queen’s developmental psychology lab and complete her undergraduate studies in Psychology with honours

    Shelby Beals - Memorial University of Newfoundland

    Sarah Allen
    Shelby is a hard working first year University student who was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at the age of 11. Since her diagnosis, Shelby has done everything possible to defy the limitations that people think she has.

    From captain of sports teams and student council, to working her way up to the top position and rank in the Canadian Cadet Movement, Shelby is still able to find the time to help the IWK Health Centre as much as possible. Helping others who face IBD complications is what gives Shelby the greatest feelings of joy and she does this through various fundraising initiatives, volunteer opportunities, IBD Camp and hospital research programs.

    Her goal is to complete her Bachelor of Science in Biology and become a Nurse Practitioner so that she can continue to help others, the way that her own health care professionals have helped her.

    Carly Lindsay - Queen's University

    Carly Lindsay
    Carly, who is currently enrolled in her second year of University, has been living with “Trouble” for the past ten years. “Trouble” is her ileostomy that she and her nurse nicknamed. After nearly seven weeks in hospital, a variety of medications and one too many blood transfusions, Carly and her family had to make the difficult decision to undergo surgery, removing her entire large intestine at the very young age of nine.

    Since her diagnosis Carly has met numerous people that live with feelings of isolation and uncertainty. Recognizing these emotions, Carly made it her personal goal to help mentor others, especially children, living with IBD. After completing her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at Queen’s University, she hopes to continue to positively impact those suffering with IBD and continue further studies in gastroenterology and entersomal-wound therapy. It doesn’t matter what rock you throw her way, Carly maintains a positive attitude and lives life to the fullest. From recording more than 1,500 hours in community service (only 40 hours are required to graduate high school) and supporting CCFC in various initiatives, to climbing Mount Everest with the Intestinal Disease Education & Awareness (IDEAS) in support of IBD, Carly is an inspiration to those around her.

    Krystal Maher - Dalhousie University

    Krystal Maher
    Krystal is a second year Neuroscience major at Dalhousie University in Halifax, who has been living with Crohn’s disease since she was eight years old. Spending months in and out of hospital, trying different medications and feeding tubes, her only option was to undergo a serious surgery. At the age of only nine, Krystal had a total colectomy resulting in an ileostomy. 

    Living in the small town of Sydney, it was difficult for Krystal to find someone who could help her understand what she was experiencing. Over and above her feelings of isolation, she was also bullied endlessly by her peers. Discovering Camp Canada, a camp organized for kids who were living with IBD, provided her with the confidence and courage to speak out about her illness and educate others. Krystal now plays an incredibly active part informing her community, participating in fundraising initiatives with CCFC and mentoring kids at the Izaak Walton Killam Hospital who are struggling with IBD. Krystal also created an online community ( where people can ask questions and receive ostomy support. Krystal is an inspiration to her family and friends and has never let anything or anyone stop her from reaching her goals.

    John McCann - Western University

    John McCann
    Claiming the status of being an IBD veteran, John has lived nearly three decades with Crohn’s disease. He has learned to develop a variety of strategies for achieving his personal and academic goals. These strategies, however, have not been easy. Crohn’s disease has had devastating effects on his body, mind, and soul. Over the years the debilitating symptoms have caused delays in his academic pursuits and required that he take extended time off from his career. Regardless of these challenges, John has always been able to regain his health, persevere and reach his goals, which include obtaining three university degrees. Outside of the classroom, John has been highly involved with CCFC, participating in local chapter events and initiatives.

    While he has had a wonderful career working as a Special Education teacher, his devastating personal and family health experiences have inspired him to make a career change. He has recently decided to become a Registered Nurse so that he can give to others, as they have given to him. John will be pursuing his studies at Western University in London in the BScN program.

    Clinton Shard - Capilano University

    Clinton Shard
    Clinton is a second year Business student attending Capilano University. He was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at the age of 12 and has faced the challenge of overcoming the many obstacles that living with a chronic illness presents. The severity of his illness caused him to miss school significantly, spending weeks and even months at a time in hospital. No matter how much school Clinton missed, he was still determined to keep up with his studies and maintain an A average so that he could reach his goal of attending university. 

    When he was 16 years old, Clinton decided that he wanted to not only show himself that anything is possible, but to show others who struggle with IBD as well. Joining the Intestinal Disease Education and Awareness Society (IDEAS), Clinton successfully reached the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest free standing mountain in the world. Clinton is now an ambassador for IBD, helping to reduce the stigma associated with digestive disease by raising awareness within his own community as well as on a global platform. Clinton uses his own personal experiences to assist others living with IBD and lives each day demonstrating that “IBD can’t stop him” from living life to the fullest.

    Phillipe Tremblay - Universite de Sherbrooke

    Phillipe Tremblay
    Philippe is a second year student working towards a Masters degree in Engineering from Université de Sherbrooke. He has aspirations of continuing to live a healthy, active lifestyle and refuses to let Crohn’s disease control his life. Diagnosed in 2004, Philippe’s illness forced him to go through three severe outbreaks and medication changes, as well as one surgical intervention over the early diagnosis years, forcing him to cancel a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Africa experience. Despite that, Philippe decided to enter the Engineering undergraduate program in 2007, a major challenge for him, and he successfully managed a heavy workload and obtained high marks, which led him to start his Masters in Hydraulics Engineering, a true passion for Philippe.

    In order to maintain a good quality of life, Philippe became more physically active, which helped him manage his symptoms. He discovered cross country cycling, allowing him to push his limits. In addition to his academic and sports achievements, Philippe is also a music lover, and this passion has led him to become a DJ, participating in several university events over the last few years. Philippe is a driven individual, has never asked for any special treatments and is not the type of person to let anything discourage him. He is an excellent role model and example to everyone around him.

    Christopher Whelan - Mount Royal University

    Christopher Whelan
    Christopher is a fourth year student who is working towards a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice from Mount Royal University. He has aspirations of joining the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and refuses to let his colitis control his life. Diagnosed at the age of 14, Christopher’s illness has challenged his studies, relationships, extra-curricular activities and all other aspects of his life that are important to him. For his first two years of university, he was constantly wracked with colon pain and flare-ups and he continues to cope with agonizing symptoms. A new exercise and nutrition program, along with new medication has helped Christopher better manage his IBD, despite his escalating disease progression. Christopher’s colitis is a very real and significant part of his everyday life, but he refuses to let it stand in the way of reaching his goals.

    Over and above Christopher’s educational career, he participates in various fundraising activities, helping to raise more than $28,000 for CCFC in support of IBD research. Christopher has never asked for any special treatments and is not the type of person to let anything discourage him. He is an excellent role model and example to everyone around him.

  • Canada has among the highest incidence rates of Crohn's and colitis in the world.
  • 1 in 140 Canadians lives with Crohn’s or colitis.
  • Families new to Canada are developing these diseases for the first time.
  • Incidence of Crohn’s in Canadian kids under 10 has doubled since 1995.
  • People are most commonly diagnosed before age 30.

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