The CCFA’s TakeSteps walks are by far the nation’s biggest IBD events of the year. Through these walks, funds are raised, awareness is spread, and most importantly, support for an otherwise hidden disease is provided for millions of American’s who thought they were fighting alone.
It’s a time to celebrate the breakthroughs of last year and hope for a cure in the near future. It’s a place for IBD fighters and their families to come together and realize that they aren’t alone. It’s an event that not only raises money for research, but encouragement for those who tirelessly fight IBD every day. Plus, they do have free bananas, so, I mean, who wouldn’t want to show up?
I know you’re probably thinking, “seriously? That’s just like every other charity walk! They’re all the same; depressing stories of sick people, cheesy team names, matching shirts, and the bothersome task of hounding down your neighbors for cash to reach your fundraising goal.” But for people who live with IBD, putting the cheese aside, walks like Take Steps are a big deal.
But why? Why do I walk, you ask? (Or maybe you don’t care, but just go with it, ok?) Most people would assume that I walk for myself. It makes sense; I, the Crohn’s fighter (I don’t like to say sufferer because I am fighting; not suffering), walking to raise money to cure the suckish disease that I have. To meet new people. To eat free bananas and collect pamphlets telling me all of the horrible complications that could occur with the medicine I injected into myself that morning. However, while all of that is true (beside the pamphlet part; those are pretty boring), I don’t walk for myself. I walk for them.
Now, I’m sure you’re wondering who they are (once again, if you don’t care, just go with it.) In truth, I’ve never met one of “them,” but I do know they exist, and I do know they need help. They are those who, like myself, live with IBD, but unlike myself, aren’t able to live a pretty much normal life. They are those who, just like me and many of you, have tried bazillions of IBD medications, but unlike me, weren’t able to find one that worked. They are the those who, like myself, have gotten very sick at one point, but unlike me, not been able to see a doctor and/or pay for the treatment they so badly need. They are those who, just like me, who want to raise awareness and find a cure, but unlike me, are unable to do so. But sadly, we often forget about “them.” We show up to “charity walks” and look around at all of the people, often times close friends and relatives, who identify as fighters, warriors, and survivors of a disease, and we think to ourselves, “these people aren’t sick! They’re normal people! They don’t really need my help; they seem totally fine!” But the truth is, there are so many more people who are too busy fighting, too weak, too sick, and too exhausted, that they can’t show up to the walk, they can’t raise money, and they can’t help find cures.
So, when I show up to a TakeSteps walk every June wearing an ugly t-shirt, eating a free banana, and holding a stack of medical pamphlets I’m never going to read, while I’m walking for myself and my disease, I am also walking for “them” and their disease. Because it’s not my disease; I’m not the only one. And neither are you.
So, how can you become a part of TakeSteps? It’s surprisingly simple. There are walks all across the country that you can become a part of. On the CCFA’s TakeSteps website, you have to option to join a team, create your own, or walk by yourself. (But there are tons of people there anyway, so you’re not really alone). To be a part of the walk, you don’t even need to fundraise, or wear a cheesy shirt, or do anything besides show up. So, while it is obviously more fun to organize a team, have matching outfits, and reach a fundraising goal, if you are uncomfortable and unable to do so, the CCFA respects this and welcomes your participation.
Whether you have been a part of TakeSteps for 5 years or have never heard of it before, take some time to look into a walk near you. Remember, simply showing up and providing support for IBD is enough. And, if you fall into the “them” category, know that there are people who are supporting, raising funds for, and walking for you.
So, you might say that TakeSteps is just another “charity walk.” But you know what? That’s ok. Because no matter how cheesy, how awkward, how annoying you find it to raise money, throw on some purple, and show up to a walk at 9 a.m., realize that your efforts are needed. Think about the hundred+ other supporters who did the same thing as you. Now, multiply that by the number of walks in the country. Now, think about all of those people, many of which have IBD and many of which do not. Think about how much support and how much awareness is created during those few hours on a sunday morning. (You can go home and sleep afterwards.)
Each of those people who take the time and the effort to show up to TakeSteps prove a point. They prove that IBD, no matter how invisible, should not be a hidden disease. They prove that taking complicated medicines and eating special diets don’t make you weird. And most importantly, they prove that those who fight IBD are not alone. So, if you are able to, strive to be one of those people. And if you aren’t, know that I, along with many others, are walking for you.