Every Tuesday we recognize a special young athlete, both here and on social media, battling IBD and refusing to let their disease hold them back from reaching their goals both on and off the field/court.
Have an athlete that you would like to nominate for Teammate of the Week?
Send us an email with a brief story and photos to firstname.lastname@example.org!
AVC’s last #TeammateoftheWeek for 2021 is Allyson from Dalton, OH!
Diagnosed with Crohn’s in March of 2021, Ally is 14 years old and a freshman in high school. She is
active in dance at Studio 136 Dance Center, a JV cheerleader, coaches youth cheer, the Vice President
of her freshman student council, an honors student, just ended her reign representing Dalton as the
Dalton Holidays Festival Queen, barrel races horses at the Massillon Saddle Club, is active in 4H where
she recently held the role of student President, is involved in the school plays and musicals, and active
in her youth group at the North Canton Chapel.
Ally is passionate about helping others, spreading awareness about invisible illnesses, and working with
animals. One of the most important things she has learned in her journey is that not talking about her
symptoms sooner caused her disease to flare up worse and she encourages others to not be afraid to
talk to someone. Now that she has this diagnosis, she will continue to reach out to others and help
them as they progress with IBD. While she is still learning about her new condition, she is determined to
continue to fight, follow her doctors recommendations, and not let her disease define who she is!
Way to go, Ally – there is absolutely NOTHING you can’t do!
Meet AVC #TeammateoftheWeek Nick from Beverly, MA!
Nick was diagnosed with Crohn’s at the age of 10. In the course of six weeks, he had dropped a quarter
of his body weight and his energy levels plummeted. However, with the assistance of his outstanding
doctor at Mass General, Dr. Russell, he’s thriving as a 17 year-old senior in high school.
Last year, as a Junior at Beverly High School, Nick took advantage of a COVID delayed Fall season to
letter in four Varsity teams in one school year. As the starting center back for his soccer team, he was
key to his team’s defensive sets. In basketball, he snagged rebounds and nailed threes as a 6’3” post
player. In his first ever track season, Nick led his team in the shot-put, scoring points every time he
threw, and even winning a meet! The track team recognized him as “Rookie of the Year.” For the
baseball team, he played first base and in one game drove in five runs.
After his Junior year ended, he joined the Post 331 American Legion baseball team as their starting first
baseman, one of only two high school students starting for a team comprised of mostly 19-year-old
college students. Nick went on to lead his team to the American Legion World Series in Shelby, NC,
where he was tied for the team’s most productive hitter, driving in three runs in their three games.
Nick is a true role model for perseverance and grit. Pushing through hospitalizations, flare-ups, and the
daily challenges and pain associated with Crohn’s; he does not use his diagnosis as an excuse. In the
classroom he excels – currently ranked 15th in his class of over 300 students. Nick is also holds the
position of Class Secretary and is also the President of his school’s DECA program. Nick has recently
sent off his applications to college… searching for a larger university with an honors college to
challenge him as he studies to become a Pediatric Gastroenterologist – helping those who are like him.
You are such an inspiration, Nick – the sky’s the limit for what you can achieve
Our AVC #TeammateoftheWeek is Jarrad from California!
Now 27, Jarrad has been living with Crohn’s for 13 years, battling stomach pain, muscle weakness,
fatigue, and weight loss. Despite all this, Jarrad refused to let IBD stop him from reaching his goals!
He played rugby at the Division 1 level at Sacramento State, earning All-American Honors and currently
playing at the semi-professional level!
His advice to others battling Crohn’s? “With the right diet, exercise, and medication playing sports with
Crohn’s is manageable. I hope to show kids that Crohn’s can’t hold you back from achieving goals!”
Way to go, Jarrad – you are such an inspiration!
Today’s AVC #TeammateoftheWeek is Luke from Illinois! We had the pleasure of meeting
Luke and his family at our AVC Night at the Bulls game in January of 2020!
Diagnosed with Crohn’s when he was 11 years old, Luke suffered from pain, exhaustion and had a
partial bowel obstruction. For over 100 days he could have only a clear liquid diet and IV nutrition,
but he didn’t let it stop him from anything. He continued to excel in school, hung out with friends, and
even went to a sleepover hooked up to his nightly dose of TPN. He’s always loved basketball,
and even when he couldn’t play because of his picc line, he went to camp every day, participated
as much as he could and received the Sportsmanship Award.
He had bowel resection surgery on his 12th birthday – not the birthday anyone would want – but he handled
it all with strength and a smile! He became very sick again two years later and needed a second
resection surgery when he was 14. He’s now 17 and has continued to be a straight A student and athlete.
He played on the high school tennis team, and as a Senior decided to try out for the golf team and made Varsity!
His Humira injections have made him susceptible to infection, but despite having multiple painful infections
on his fingers and foot as well as chronic sinus infections, he managed to have an outstanding season
and qualified for Regionals.
Luke is an outstanding example of strength and perseverance, and is SUCH a positive role model for
other kids battling IBD!
Our AVC #TeammateoftheWeek is Clarkson from Memphis, TN!
A senior at Memphis University School, Clarkson was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis this past summer.
At first, this news was so disheartening – he and his family were unsure how IBD would affect his future
and goals of being a college athlete. With hope, perseverance, and a winning attitude, Clarkson was able
to stay on the field and compete this season! A team captain and standout wide receiver, he recently
committed to continue his football career at Butler University!
We have no doubt that Clarkson will be successful as a Bulldog and beyond!
Connor and his coach Doug
Today’s AVC #TeammateoftheWeek is a special double recognition – featuring Connor
and his coach Doug from Johnstown, NY!
Connor was diagnosed with Crohn’s at the age of 5, but has managed it well until the last several years.
Always an athlete, Connor enjoys basketball and has played team soccer since he was in 5th grade.
Just before his first year playing high school soccer, what he had hoped to avoid for so long was finally
inevitable. Four weeks before practice started, Connor underwent surgery to remove part of an organ
affected by his Crohn’s. This left him only able to perform light duty for the first several weeks of practice
as his body adjusted, and he missed the first game. He worked to build his stamina and endurance back,
and earned a starting position on the JV soccer team coached by Doug Chamberlain.
It takes a special coach to work with a player with a chronic illness, as players struggle with feeling that you
are letting your coach down if you are not able to train as hard as others every day, and coaches make
a huge difference in how this is perceived to athletes with chronic conditions. Coach Chamberlain was willing
to listen and learn, and was open to make adjustments when necessary to help Connor achieve both his
fitness and sport goals. The balance between when to push the athlete or when to encourage resting is a difficult
one to navigate for coaches of athletes with chronic conditions, but Coach Chamberlain did it with grace
and humility. They even finished the season with 9 wins!
Keep up the great work Connor and Doug – you are both AMAZING role models for the IBD community!
Our AVC #TeammateoftheWeek is Drew from Windham, Maine!
When diagnosed with Crohn’s at age 14, Drew was very tiny – weighing only 84 pounds because he could
not gain weight. He had to give up activities he loved to conserve his energy and reserve his calories.
This caused Drew to turn his focus to golf – he committed his time and energy to becoming the best golfer
he could be and allowed the game to take him away from the stress of battling Crohn’s. At age 18, he is
a standout golfer at Saint Joseph’s College – he just won the college conference championship and
was named conference Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year, as well as the All-Conference
Team – as a FRESHMAN! He is also attending college on Presidential and Honors Academic Scholarships.
He is a true scholar athlete in every sense of the word!
Drew has followed the SCD diet strictly for over 4 years now. He takes his food with him everywhere he goes,
as he know this diet helps him feel great and has allowed him to grow and gain weight the way he should.
He is a true role model for others and his dedication and perseverance are an inspiration!
Keep shining, Drew!
Our AVC #TeammateoftheWeek is Melanie from Cincinnati, OH! A standout basketball and
soccer player, Melanie was nominated by her supportive parents, Amanda and Josh.
Below is what they had to say about their IBD warrior:
“This is Melanie, age 10 from Cincinnati, OH. She’s played soccer and basketball since the age of 3.
Although she’s had GI issues since a young age, at the beginning of this year she started losing weight
and dealing with crippling pain, headaches, and fatigue. She pushed through it, helping her
basketball team finish 1st in the state & 4th at Nationals and making the CUP North I soccer team as
a goal keeper. Shortly after the tournaments, she finally got an answer and was diagnosed with Crohn’s,
C. diff, and anemia on her 10th birthday. Although it was not what she wanted to hear, she was a
trooper through all the tests, poking and prodding. She even agreed to endure more IV’s and take part in
a research study because she wants to help other kids.
After immediately starting Remicade and iron infusions, she has gained back the weight and is back on
the field. Changing her diet has been a challenge but luckily she’s an excellent cook and loves experimenting
with different recipes. We are so thankful for Cincinnati Children’s and all of her coaches, teammates
and family that have supported her while she found a diagnosis and now recovers.
Melanie is one tough kid and we are so proud of her!”
Way to go Melanie – we are rooting for you and are thrilled to have you on our team vs. Crohn’s!
Today’s AVC #TeammateoftheWeek is Zack from Imperial Beach, CA!
Diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis in March, Zack has had a difficult journey. From long stays in the ER,
significant weight loss, and a cyst requiring surgery – his diagnosis took a significant toll of his physical
and mental health. Despite this, however, he refused to give up! Not only did he fight back to play
college football at Whittier University, but he earned a starting spot as the team’s long snapper!
A Sophomore studying biology, Zack lives each day to the fullest and hopes to someday become a teacher
and football coach!
You are SUCH an inspiration, Zack – best of luck this season!
Our AVC #TeammateoftheWeek is 9 year old Gio from Anaheim Hills, CA!
Gio started with Ulcerative Colitis symptoms in February of 2020 before the world shut down.
Because of Covid, it took a while to get him in to get a colonoscopy for a diagnosis. He was losing weight
too fast and was bleeding too much. His GI started him out with mild medications, and they worked
for a little while – but he eventually had to move on to biologics. He had an allergic reaction to Inflectra,
then tried Humira without success, next up was Stelara. He saw results from the infusion, but then
had an allergic reaction to the second infusion. He is currently trying Stelara and did not have any
negative reactions. He has not grown in over 2 years and he is just now starting to gain weight,
so we are hoping this is the medication to help him!
Throughout his battle with UC, he has tried keeping his skills sharp on the sports he loves through practice.
When feeling well, he likes to play flag football, baseball, basketball and soccer. He has returned to
playing flag football, but because of his steroid use, his GI is advising against contact sports at the moment.
Gio is patiently waiting to be able to play all the sports he loves once again! He doesn’t give up and has
been heard saying that he “must push through the pain to get better.” He has a heart of gold and an unwavering
love for sports.
His family is praying for remission soon so that he may continue enjoying what he loves to do.
You are an IBD warrior, Gio!
Our AVC #TeammateoftheWeek is Erica from New Knoxville, OH!
A senior in high school, Erica was diagnosed with Crohn’s in June of 2021, after a year of testing,
doctors visits, and symptoms including fatigue, weight loss, and joint pain. Erica is lucky to have a great
team taking care of her at the Cleveland Clinic – including our own AVC liaison Dr. Kurowski – as well
as nurses and dietitians. In July, Erica began Humira injections and began an 8 week liquid diet.
But she never complained, and continued to attend camps, open gyms, and weightlifting sessions
for her school’s basketball and volleyball teams. She is gaining energy daily and is happy to be able
to be on the court for her senior year!
When not playing sports, Erica is also active in 4-H, taking Sewing Projects. You are SUCH an inspiration, Erica!
Meet AVC #TeammateoftheWeek Elinor from NY!
Elinor (Ella,) age 12, is a life-long sports fan – she likes to run and play soccer, baseball, and,
especially, basketball. Ella was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease a year ago and has had to try several
different treatments in hopes of getting to remission. Although the pain and exhaustion has often
made it hard to get moving, Ella has participated in sports camps and shoots hoops whenever
she has the chance. Her favorite player and hero is our very own Larry Nance Jr.
Ella looks forward to participating in the cross country and basketball teams at her school this year.
Way to go, Ella – we are rooting for you!
Our AVC #TeammateoftheWeek is Ava from Avon, OH!
Ava is a 15-year-old soon-to-be Sophomore who was recently diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis.
She found her love of Judo a few years ago and is part of her dojo’s competition team.
Ava is no stranger to hardships and overcoming obstacles – her father, a USAF F-22 pilot, was killed
in a plane crash when she was just 5 years old. Ava was also born deaf and hears with the help
of bilateral cochlear implants. Shortly after her father’s death, her mother discovered her deafness
was due to a genetic disorder called Usher Syndrome that affects hearing, vision, and balance.
The Sisters for Sight organization was started to raise awareness, as there is no cure.
Now battling two different diagnoses, times have been tough while she takes a break from judo to allow
her body to heal. She remains determined to get back on the mat as soon as possible and we have
no doubts that she will keep pushing forward with the love and support of her friends, family, and teammates!
You are SUCH an inspiration, Ava!
Meet AVC #TeammateoftheWeek Angie from Deltona, FL! Diagnosed with Crohn’s at age 15, she is now 19
and killing it on the court as a college basketball player! Check out Angie’s story, in her own words, below:
“My name is Angelina Shalkowitz (Angie) and I’m 19 years old from Deltona, Florida. I was diagnosed with
Crohn’s disease at age 15. At the time of my diagnosis, I was very sick and already had lost a significant amount
of weight. After many hospitalizations due to flare ups/bowel obstructions and having 4 endoscopy/
colonoscopys done, my PED GI then diagnosed me with Crohn’s disease. My PED GI prescribed me different
medications that worked for a short time then became unsuccessful. I was still in and out of the hospital and
having aches and pains. My GI then decided to prescribe me a biologic, HUMIRA. I’m still working hard to
get into remission with a good diet and remaining on the right medication.
Growing up I played a variety of sports but fell in love with basketball and I didn’t let anything stop me, not even
my diagnosis. I’ve earned many awards from basketball including MVP, 2x offensive player of the year, scholarships,
and was an honorable mention in the DBNJ (Daytona Beach News Journal.) I now attend Aurora University to further
my academics and athletics in basketball. I study sociology and psychology and plan to become a social worker.
My mother and friends have always been by my side supporting me through it all! Some days are easy and some are hard
but what matters the most is we move ahead one step at a time and trust the process, remission is soon to come!”
You are a star, Angie – thank you for sharing your story, and good luck this season!
Our AVC #TeammateoftheWeek is Dylan from New York! We had the pleasure of meeting Dylan at our annual
Noah’s Crohnies suite night at Madison Square Garden!
Dylan was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at the age of 11, and is now 14. He was misdiagnosed for about a year – he
lost a significant amount of weight, suffered from bad headaches, and was just exhausted all the time. He finally
ended up in the ER and started Remicade infusions. Since then, there have been a few hiccups, but Dylan’s
a fighter and he never let the disease stop him!
Academically, Dylan always excelled in school. He will head off to high school this fall with academic scholarships!
Dylan also loves sports – whether it’s basketball, football, baseball, etc. 10 years ago, his dad got him following
his footsteps into the world of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. He had his first competition in June, and he took home the
gold – with an arm bar submission having his opponent tap out! Dylan never ceases to amaze his family, and
they are so proud of him!
Stay strong and keep fighting, Dylan!
Meet AVC #TeammateoftheWeek Madeline from Pittsburgh, PA!
Nominated by her supportive mother Wendy, Madeline was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease when she was
7 years old. Over the last 11 years, she has not responded to standard maintenance therapy, so she has endured
multiple bouts of steroids, partial enteral nutrition (PEN), and a cocktail of four antibiotics for acute severe colitis.
In between use of rescue therapy, she is often flaring. Despite this and several co-conditions (arthralgia,
hypermobility syndrome, mast cell activation syndrome, allergies and anemia,) Madeline has excelled as an athlete,
playing on a travel soccer team since age 8, and running cross country since age 11.
Madeline recently played in her final U19 soccer game, and she graduated from Taylor Allderdice High School as
a valedictorian. She will attend the University of Pittsburgh Honors College to study nutrition and dietetics.
Madeline has followed a modified version of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet since middle school, and while the
diet didn’t induce remission, she attributes it to greatly improving her health, allowing her to stay active.
Way to go, Madeline – you are an inspiration to all!
Meet AVC #TeammateoftheWeek Mikayla from Alexandria, VA!
Mikayla, aka KK, was diagnosed with Crohn’s at age 4 – she is now 11 years old. Her parents knew something
was wrong when she couldn’t run on the soccer field and keep up with the other kids. She lives by the motto
that Crohn’s is a part of her, but doesn’t define her!
Mikayla has been through a whole host of treatments – initially, she started on 6MP and a handful of other oral
medications and they worked for a year. Under the care of providers at Johns Hopkins, she started on other oral
medications and quickly moved to Humira. At the age of 9, she was doing her own injections. She failed the
Humira and was quickly losing weight, which was impacting her overall health. Her parents decided to get a
second opinion with Dr. Dubinsky at Mt. Sinai (same Dr. as Noah!) which turned into moving Mikayla completely
under her care. Soon after that visit, she started Remicade and while successful for a period of time, it didn’t
completely help her. There was still 10% of her colon not responding – so she was switched Stelara and it has
been successful so far!
Outside of her Crohn’s, she plays travel soccer and competitively swims. She has never missed a meet, practice
or game despite everything going on – she always powers through! Currently, she is swimming two days a week
(her best strokes are backstroke and freestyle) and playing soccer four days a week. When she was 6, she made
the All-Star meet for her summer league. This year if her birthday was 2 days later, she would have made the
Junior Olympics in the 50 backstroke. In soccer, she has bounced among teams but always seems to shine as
a leader and play her striker role to the best of her ability.
When she isn’t in the pool or soccer field, she is working hard at school to achieve above-average grades,
participate in student council, go to Hebrew School, and be a good role model for her brothers, Josh and Zach.
Keep inspiring, Mikayla – you are a rock star!
Meet AVC #TeammateoftheWeek Seth from Kalamazoo, Michigan!
Now 19, he was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease at age 14. Seth hasn’t always been as powerful and strong as
he shows in this picture – he was very sick at the time of his diagnosis and had lost a significant amount of
weight. His doctors were very concerned by this, and immediately began infusion therapy. Luckily, he has been
in remission ever since!
Playing many sports growing up, Seth eventually developed a passion for Olympic weightlifting. He has earned
many honors, including top youth in the state and 3rd overall in the youth nationals competition! After high school,
Seth plans to attend college and begin studying to become a nurse. His family and friends are very proud of him,
and we are so inspired by his refusal to let Crohn’s stop him!!
Way to go, Seth!
Our AVC #TeammateoftheWeek is Preston from Juneau, Alaska! Nominated by his loving mother, father,
and sister, Preston has been battling Crohn’s Disease for 4 years. Check out his nomination letter below:
“Living in Alaska made getting a diagnosis extremely difficult. Months of fighting with doctors and losing 30 pounds
in a month, Preston was finally diagnosed in Seattle. His father, Shawn, also has Crohn’s Disease (diagnosed at
the age of 16.) They share a special bond, both being Crohnies and their love of baseball. Preston is currently taking
Humira every other week and is in remission. We owe so much to his Seattle doctor for getting us a correct
diagnosis and starting Preston on his path to remission.
Even when Preston was very sick, he still managed to keep a smile on his face, go to school every day, and achieve
straight A’s. COVID shut down the 2020 Juneau Baseball season, but that did not stop Preston’s determination
to work harder and get stronger for the 2021 season, and that work ethic proved to pay off! This year’s highlight
started off during Sitka’s Invitational Round-Robin Tournament, where Preston threw the first no-hitter in the history
of the Thunder Mountain High School baseball program, in a 5-0 win over our home team rival, the Juneau-Douglas
High School Bears.
He has never once used his disease as an excuse. He works hard, puts in the effort and is a well rounded teenager.
He’s a supportive teammate both on and off the field. He is also a team captain for his high school team! His
future plans are to attend college (undecided) and hopefully play baseball at the college level. Preston – We love you,
and are so proud of the amazing person you are becoming. Great things will happen for you, keep up the hard work.”
Your family is right, Preston – great things will absolutely happen for you… we believe in you and are thrilled to
have you on our team vs. IBD!
Our AVC #TeammateoftheWeek is a very special member of the AVC family – Joshua from NYC!
We had the pleasure of meeting Josh at our very first suite night in 2017, and he and his family have been a key
part of the AVC team ever since! Joshua was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease soon after his 8th birthday.
In the over 5 years since then, he has tried all sorts of medications, 3 types of biologics, had all the now “routine”
scopes, blood work, ultrasounds and follow-ups with other medical specialists. He is currently feeling well while
taking daily medications as well as monthly injections. As of the moment, he is in a healthy place thanks to his
friends, family, teammates, coaches and physicians.
While being a Crohn’s patient, he has also managed to be in the honor society, play for championship basketball
and flag football teams, as well as being named the MVP! He is a leader both on and off the field, as he was recently
honored as the NYC Take Steps Pediatric Honored Hero for 2021 for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation.
He previously won an opportunity to host a charity event in which he chose to have the proceeds donated to AVC!
We couldn’t be more proud of the young man Joshua is growing up to be – a strong student, patient, advocate and friend.
Keep up the amazing work, Joshua!
Meet AVC #TeammateoftheWeek Ashley from Lake Villa, IL!
Nominated by her loving parents, Ashley was diagnosed with Crohn’s at the age of 11 after suffering from joint
pain, fevers, anemia and weight loss. Ashley battled through various treatments for 2 years before finding
the right medicine to achieve remission. She has attended @crohnscolitisfoundation Camp Oasis every summer
since her diagnosis, even serving as a leader in training counselors for the younger campers last summer.
Ashley was honored to be the special guest speaker at 2018 at the Illinois CCFA Gala.
Playing soccer since she was 5, Ashley has played at the club level for many years and has been a member of
her high school soccer team for four years. She has worked hard to stay strong and play through pain when having
a bad Crohn’s day. Her perseverance has paid off – she is both a starter and captain of both her club and
high school soccer teams this year!
Ashley is graduating from Warren Township High School magna cum laude this May. She plans to attend Butler
University Fall of 2021 to study Health Science on the pre-med track. Her dream is to be a pediatric
Gastroenterologist so she can help kids because she understands what it is like to have IBD. Ashley has shown an
inner strength and determination that makes her family and friends very proud!
Congratulations and best of luck, Ashley!
Meet AVC #TeammateoftheWeek John from Owensboro, KY!
Known to his friends and family as JW, he is 17 years old and was diagnosed with Colitis 2 years ago. His journey
with IBD has not been an easy one – he started with Humira injections every 2 weeks with no improvement and
then went to weekly injections, which were ineffective. In October, JW changed to a new doctor and started
Entyvio infusions – what a great move it was!! Through it all, JW never complained and always stayed positive!
A great baseball player, JW has a great swing and works out several days a week to prepare for next season.
Off the field, he stands out as well – he earns stellar grades in school and always has a great attitude!
Keep up the good work, JW – the future is bright for you!
Our AVC #TeammateoftheWeek is DeWitt from Texas! A student-athlete on the track team at Texas A&M,
he is a true inspiration and such a strong role model for other kids battling IBD. Check out his raw,
honest, and powerful words below:
“My name is DeWitt Thomas, I’m from Kingwood Texas, and I’m currently a 400 hurdler at Texas A&M University.
I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis late summer of 2014. Unfortunately, symptoms started months before,
in April, as I was too afraid to describe what I was going through to anyone. After almost three months filled
with confusion, sadness, stomach pains, weight loss, bloody stools, and complete destruction of self-confidence,
I came out the other side with a diagnosis. I was broken after being stripped of all physical, mental, and emotional
energy. I was a scared, weak kid joining one of the most prestigious track programs in the country wondering if
I could ever return to what I was.
I struggled for five years, being on and off the track and having seasons cut short due to flare-ups. I was changing
medicines the whole time, trying to find the right balance that would give me relief and let me live the life I wanted
to live, a “normal” life. After 5 long years, I finally made the switch to biological treatment. Five long years, I had
patiently waited to prove I could still be who I knew I could be. After five long years—my dreams finally came true.
Those years spent in hatred and sorrow were also spent in optimism and regrowth. Even after all my failures, I
was still able to rebuild my dismantled confidence brick by brick. With the support of friends, family, and coaches
I was able to recapture that spark of magic that got me on the Texas A&M Track and Field Team. In 2019 everything
clicked, I became a First Team All-American and was a part of the Outdoor National Championship 4×400 team.
I used to hate the world for the curse it gifted me. It consumed me for some time, and it was easy to play the victim.
But as I grew older, my optimism got the best of me. Gradually, I began to take back the reins of my own fate.
This curse allowed me to grow into the person I could only hope for. Hardships and failures shaped who I am today,
I am thankful for the opportunity this disease has gifted me.
As I’ve explained this, you might believe that the weight of this disease has become lighter, making my journey
much more pleasurable. Although I wish it was so, the unfortunate truth is that the weight has always stayed
the same, it is only that the bearer of that weight has become stronger. As I reflect, I can proudly say I’ve
become the person I’ve always dreamed of being, a person for a younger DeWitt to look up to. A person who
has become a pillar—one that has found equilibrium physically, mentally, and emotionally.”
Best of luck in all that you do, DeWitt – we have no doubt that you will go far!
Another AVC #TeammateoftheWeek is Audrey from Minnesota! A future college swimmer, Audrey is an
inspiration both in and out of the pool! Check out her bio below:
“Hi! I’m Audrey from St. Paul, MN. I am a senior in high school and I committed to swim D1 at the University of
St. Thomas next year! My favorite events are the 100 and 200 Butterfly and the 400 IM. I was diagnosed with
UC after 3 years of chronic stomach pain, nuclear scans, ultrasounds, endoscopies, and endless doctor
appointments. Training to swim at a high level is not easy with UC, but I’m determined that this disease
won’t define me or what I can do!
I love swimming and working out so I’ve learned to be very disciplined with my nutrition and sleep, following
doctor’s orders, and listening to my coaches to be as efficient in the water as possible. I am very excited to take
my swimming to the next level in college. As I battle UC, I never give up on my goal to swim my best.
Though I know there are some tough days, I encourage you to stay positive and work toward your goals too!”
Thanks for the great advice, Audrey, and good luck at St. Thomas and beyond!
Our AVC #TeammateoftheWeek is Zachary from Miami, FL! Diagnosed with Crohn’s in summer of 2019,
he refuses to let IBD stop him from finding success on the mat as a Jiu-Jitsu Blue Belt!
Below is what his father and nominator Javier had to say about his amazing son:
“Zachary Arias is my son and a 17-year-old young man. He has been training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu since he was
4 years old. He is an avid sports fan and devoted to his South Florida sports teams. His dream is to someday
coach football. Zachary was diagnosed with Crohn’s July 2019 at the age of 16. Zachary was admitted to
the hospital on 7/12/2019, where he spent 21 long and painful days. He suffered from constipation, perianal
fistula, high CRP levels and white blood cell count. His weight on day 1 of his hospital stay was 111 LBS.
During his 15 year annual physical, Zachary weighed in at 123 – that’s an over 10 LB weight loss from the
An MRI was conducted and it showed major inflammation, mostly in the terminal ileum and the stomach.
2 additional fistulas were found in his stomach leading to his prostate. He was administered antibiotics in an
attempt to lower the inflammation enough to perform an Endoscopy and Colonoscopy, which was done a week
later. On 7/22, the diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease was confirmed. A PICC Line for TPN was placed to maintain
his weight. His weight was now 104 LBS. After 21 long days, Zachary was released from the hospital with
the TPN maintained and no food besides ice cubes. After several weeks the TPN and PICC line was removed,
and Zachary was placed on Remicade infusions every 6 weeks and continues to improve.
Zachary has integrated IBD AID and the Special Carbohydrate Diet. During this grueling and painful time, Zachary
continued to train in Martial Arts 5-6 days a week. He has achieved a Blue Belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and assists
in coaching beginners and young students. He began to encompass weight lifting as part of his training – as
a result, he has gain muscle mass and now weighs over 132 LBS! Earlier this year, Zachary was invited to debut
in his first Brazilian Jui-Jitsu Super Match. Zachary won in the first few minutes of the match by submitting
his opponent in an arm-bar!
Zachary has never complained about his condition or the huge change in his diet. He has been an inspiration in
all of our lives. He does not let Crohn’s define his life, but he has learned how to live his life with Crohn’s!
He is our Hero and our ATHLETE WITH CROHN’S!”
Way to go, Zachary – you are such an inspiration”
Our AVC #TeammateoftheWeek is Grant from Millsap, TX!
Grant is 16 years old and was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis at age 6. After a bad flare when he was 12,
Grant spent many weeks in the hospital before ultimately undergoing 3 surgeries to remove his colon,
adding an ileostomy bag, and ultimately a j-pouch. All of Grant’s doctors and nurses were so wonderful,
they inspired him to pursue a career in the medical field someday!
Although his battle with UC has been very challenging, Grant has learned how to be tough and feels compelled
to raise awareness for the disease, and ultimately find a cure! Grant has an amazing team of supporters
helping him through his journey with IBD, including his school principals, nurses, coaches, family, friends, and
his church. Now a junior in high school, Grant is a left-handed pitcher and outfielder for the baseball team!
His advice to other kids facing UC? “Don’t let Crohn’s or Colitis define who you are. We are bigger than this!
Find a support system and don’t give up on a dream or goal you may have!”
Stay strong, Grant – we are rooting for you!
Another AVC #TeammateoftheWeek is Fletcher from Atlanta, Georgia! Once a college baseball player and
a current MLB scout, Fletcher is the definition of strength, determination, and using his diagnosis to positively impact others!
Check out these words from Fletcher below:
“My name is Fletcher Byrd. I am a former College Baseball player and current Scout for the Oakland A’s. I was
diagnosed with Crohn’s in August 2020 and have had to endure 2 separate surgeries within that span to control
the disease. I had to undergo emergency resection surgery to remove parts of my lower intestine and currently
have a ileostomy bag. Crohn’s completely changed my life and has brought out the very best in me!
When I was at my lowest, I had to find a way to keep going, keep smiling and know that with hard work and faith
I would eventually get better! Even though I still have difficulties dealing with my new reality, I feel so much
better and am so happy to have already connected with many other athletes and incredible people who are
going through the very same thing as I am!
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for featuring me and I hope somehow I can be an inspiration and small
example of what it means to battle and fight this disease with everything you’ve got! God Bless”
We are thrilled to have you on our team vs. Crohn’s, Fletcher – you are a role model and inspiration to all!
Our AVC #TeammateoftheWeek is Alex from Houston, TX! He was diagnosed with Crohn’s at age 13,
after years of stomach pain and what was thought of as reflux, but eventually led to weight loss
and failure to grow.
Today’s AVC #TeammateoftheWeek is Alex from Houston, TX! He was diagnosed with Crohn’s at age 13,
after years of stomach pain and what was thought of as reflux, but eventually led to weight loss and
failure to grow. Alex’s parents were devastated to learn that he would be facing lifelong illness, but Alex
took the news in stride. Playing soccer for many years growing up, he noticed during his sophomore
year that he no longer had the stamina to keep up with the physical demands of soccer any longer. However,
he didn’t want to give up the sport he loved and the teammates that had become close friends – so he
became the soccer team manager for the JV team that year and then moved on to the Varsity team manager
role for 11th and 12th grades.
After many scopes and a few years of trying to get his biologic medication dosage at the right level, Alex has
gained 40 pounds in just over a year and says he feels better than he ever has in his entire life! This weight
gain and general feeling of good health made Alex want to give sports one more try. He told his parents he
wanted to play on the varsity football team as a punter for his upcoming senior year. Having never played
football or ever punted a football before, he started working with a punting coach and approached his school
coaches to see if he could join the team. The football team welcomed Alex with open arms and he proudly played
as one of the back up punters on the Varsity football team!
Finishing his senior year in high school as a Varsity football letterman was something Alex never thought
possible just 2 short years ago when he could barely run the length of the soccer field. Alex, now 18, will
be attending Texas A&M University in the fall and will be majoring in Sports Management where he hopes
to turn his passion for sports into a career with the goal of eventually going to law school and becoming
a sports agent. His spirit and determination in the face of what could be a lifelong battle against Crohn’s
Disease has inspired not only his family but also his coaches, teachers, friends and teammates.
His family and friends are so proud of him for never letting IBD stop him from reaching his goals! Way to go, Alex!
Our AVC #TeammateoftheWeek is Faith from Wellsville, OH!
Now 14 years old, Faith was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis at age 7. The last 7 years have been a
struggle with many different treatments and procedures. Receiving care at Akron Children’s Hospital,
her doctor describes Faith as “a grey area” – her symptoms and spirit never match her diagnosis!
Faith is always upbeat and smiling and never complains. She has undergone a variety of procedures
with scopes and blood transfusions, as well as weekly, monthly and every other month infusions. Working
with an extensive care team over the years, Faith and her family appreciate everyone’s efforts and support.
Today, Faith is off all medication and treatment!
In addition to being active in her church, she loves cheerleading and has been cheering for her school
since she was just 3 years old! Faith has a contagious smile, loves to make her family laugh, and is always positive!
She looks forward to trying out for her high school cheer squad and enjoying time with her friends in the coming months.
Keep smiling, Faith – you are an inspiration to all!
Today’s AVC #TeammateoftheWeek is Kirstin from Crofton, MD!
An 18-year-old freshman cross country/track athlete at the University of Maryland, she was diagnosed
with Celiac disease at 18 months, and Crohn’s Disease at six years old. At seven years old, she had
a feeding tube surgically placed in her stomach from which she was solely fed from for three months,
and remained partially tube fed until she was 12 years old. She has been able to keep her Crohn’s in
remission by eating a strict grain-free diet ever since!
Off the track, Kirstin is a double major with journalism and government & politics as well as a Media,
Self, and Society Scholar. She would like to encourage all those facing health issues to recognize the
strength and bravery that they’ve obtained through their struggles as an advantage in life!
You are SUCH an inspiration, Kirstin!
Our AVC #TeammateoftheWeek is Ethan from Hudson, OH!
Just 11 years old, Ethan was diagnosed with Crohn’s in December after his parents noticed his fatigue,
low appetite, weight loss and pale skin. His pediatrician noted that his growth had significantly
slowed, and ordered several blood tests. After a pediatric gastroenterologist reviewed the results of those
tests and Ethan underwent a colonoscopy and upper endoscopy, it was confirmed that he had Crohn’s.
While learning that he had a chronic illness was shocking, Ethan read about other young athletes
succeeding despite having Crohn’s, and he knew he wasn’t going to let it stop him from playing the
sports that he loves! He immediately began treatment at Akron Children’s Hospital, where he
receives Remicade infusions. He also takes a weekly dose of Methotrexate and daily iron pills to
counteract his anemia.
Ethan is a multi-sport athlete and plays football, basketball, lacrosse and golf. His diagnosis came in the
middle of his basketball season and he was really struggling with fatigue and nausea from his disease.
However, after starting treatments, he has already started to feel better and has more energy and
a spark back in his eyes! He is looking forward to his upcoming spring lacrosse season, since last year’s
season was cancelled due to the pandemic.
Ethan’s family is so proud of him for his bravery and positive attitude, and we know he is going to keep
fighting back and not let Crohn’s get him down!
Our AVC #TeammateoftheWeek serves as a special shout-out to a crohnie making a name for himself
on the national stage! Christian, featured as our Teammate of the Week in fall of 2019,
is a standout lacrosse player at the University of the Cumberlands.
Diagnosed with Crohn’s in 8th grade, Christian has battled fatigue, sickness and flares,
but never let his condition stop him from striving for greatness. Well, his hard work
has paid off – this amazing goal propelled him to the Top Plays on Sportscenter, coming in
at number 4! Check out the above video of his awesome behind-the-back score and join us in congratulating
Christian for this amazing accomplishment – the AVC family is beyond proud!
Our AVC #TeammateoftheWeek is Luke from Cincinnati, OH! Nominated by his supportive father John,
we had the pleasure of meeting Luke back in 2019 at the CCFA Family Education Day – where our very own
Noah was the keynote speaker! Below is what John had to say about his favorite Crohnie:
“Luke was diagnosed with Crohn’s at the age of 9 after a bout of crippling cramps during a family vacation. He went through
multiple different cocktails of medications over the course of the next several years, even participating in clinical trials,
all with limited success. Eventually, he has found a level of remission with Entyvio infusions every 5 weeks. Despite all of his challenges,
Luke never let the disease slow him down. He is nearly a straight A student, black belt in Karate, and is a multi-sport athlete
who helped lead his cross-country team to a middle school state championship this year. He is also the starting point guard for his
7th grade basketball team! Luke is a huge fan of Larry Nance Jr., and is a regular attendee at IBD Day in Mason, Ohio
where has listened to Noah (while wearing an LNJ Jersey!) and others give powerful testimonies of their lives with IBD related
illnesses. Luke is a hard worker who is always thinking about the feelings of others, and is an inspiration to his family and all those around him!”
Keep up the great work, Luke – you are such an inspiration!
AVC #TeammateoftheWeek is Nick from Cedar Grove, NJ!
A senior long snapper for the Purdue University football team, Nick was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis during his freshman
year of college after battling stomach pain, endless trips to the bathroom, and rapid weight loss. A true warrior on and off
the field, he has endured 3 surgeries – including a j-pouch and reversal – but that doesn’t stop him from performing at the highest level.
With a new found love for healthy cooking, a strong workout regimen, and a positive attitude, Nick is able to stay on the
field and lead his team to victory! You are such an inspiration, Nick!
To learn more about Nick and his battle with IBD, check out the Lafayette Journal & Courier article written about him HERE.
Today’s AVC #TeammateoftheWeek comes from the highest level of professional sports – the Olympics!
US kayaker Carrie Johnson made it to three Summer Olympic Games, all while battling Crohn’s disease!
Back in 2003, anemia, fatigue, and weight loss forced her to stop training. After many tests, she was diagnosed with Crohn’s,
and doctors helped her manage the disease. She qualified for her first Olympics in Athens a year later. In her most recent Olympics,
the 2012 London Games, Johnson reached the semifinals in two events. Now retired from the sport, Johnson advocates
for people with Crohn’s, urging others not to be embarrassed or discouraged by their condition!
Thanks for using your platform to help others, Carrie – you are an inspiration to all!
Our AVC #TeammateoftheWeek is Lauryn from Columbus, OH! Nominated by her mother Vicki, Lauryn is 16 and
was diagnosed with Crohn’s 4 years ago. Below is what Vicki had to say about her daughter:
“This is our Crohnie, Lauryn. She is a 4.0+ student athlete, in the 11th grade. She plays soccer (goalkeeper) for her high school and has
been playing since she was 4 years old. Lauryn has not let Crohn’s or PSC (Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis,) another bonus disease
that is a result of Crohn’s, stop her! Lauryn is also a member of her high school marching band, playing trumpet. Her season is packed
with school, soccer, band, then homework til 11:00pm/midnight.
Lauryn takes a slew of medications, including Entyvio infusions every 6 weeks, as well as weekly methotrexate shots. Along with a
daily regimen of Vancomycin, Ursidol, and a handful of vitamins. Because of her liver disorder, she not only has a yearly colonoscopy,
but MRIs and liver biopsies. She does let that stop her from being a star student athlete and recently a mentor through
Nationwide Children’s Hospital to motivate new young people with Crohn’s! She has been in remission for 2 years, after beginning on
nutritional therapy that finally calmed her flares down to accept medications.”
You are such an inspiration, Lauryn – both on and off the field!
Meet AVC #TeammateoftheWeek Brendan from Massachusetts!
Brendan is 20 years old and is a stand out hockey player! Battling Ulcerative Colitis for most of his life, his hard work and determination
helps him stay on the ice even in days when he is not feeling well or battling a flare. Brendan has a great support system, made up of his family,
teammates, and coach, to help keep him motivated and ready to compete! This fall, he plans to transition to collegiate hockey and study law.
Keep being an inspiration, Brendan!