Here at WEGO Health, we’re always inspired by what Patient Influencers are doing out there in the world!
The following guest post is from Jackie Zimmerman, an avid IBD and MS activist. Along with 4 other awe-inspiring women, Jackie founded Girls With Guts, an organization to empower girls and women with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Crohn’s Disease & ulcerative colitis) and ostomies to share their stories of confidence and to promote self-esteem.
Not only have they provided amazing resources and events for IBD females, but this year they’ve taken it one step further and stepped up to help light up the world for IBD Day.
Learn more about this feat from Jackie herself!
May 19th is World IBD Day, the one day a year that all 5 million Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) patients band together to raise awareness and gain support worldwide! This may not seem like a very big deal. Sure, lots of disease communities have important days throughout the year, right?
But this event is unique because this year there is a common goal among everyone in the IBD world; light up landmarks purple.
Purple is the color of the IBD awareness ribbon and the universal sign for IBD awareness, so it only makes sense to light up these landmarks in our community’s color.
I work for a non-profit called Girls With Guts, we support women living with IBD and ostomies, and we were approached by two of our clients with a great idea. Light up US landmarks. This was such a brilliant idea that I had never thought about, and as it turns out, no one else was really thinking about it either.
Various other countries around the world have been lighting up their landmarks for May 19th for years, but not America. It seems as though we’ve historically dropped the ball.
When we received that email from those clients with this idea, to help support this worldwide initiative, Girls With Guts jumped all over it. We were so excited.
Shockingly enough, it is relatively easy to apply to various landmarks to get them to support your cause, which makes it even more bizarre that it has never really happened here in America before. So Girls With Guts sent out a few applications for various US landmarks and after a few months of waiting we received a very exciting email. Niagara Falls would be supporting World IBD Day by lighting up the falls purple on May 19th! While this is a victory for Girls With Guts, this also feels like a giant victory for the IBD community worldwide. Not only are we getting awareness on World IBD Day but we’ve also now managed to join other IBD organizations around the world in solidarity for our cause. America is now on the map!
There is a strong sense of pride that goes along with knowing that Niagara Falls will glow a bright purple light on World IBD Day, as it represents all of the patients around the world who live with IBD.
On this one day, we can all step out of the shame and isolation associated with IBD, and know that our IBD family around the world is standing strong together. Knowing that this is a global effort makes it feel so much bigger, so much more important, and so much more meaningful. This year we only heard back from Niagara Falls, but next year we’ll be hitting the ground hard on other landmarks to get them to support our cause.
If you’re a patient involved in a disease community, I’d encourage you to reach out to national landmarks on your important days throughout the year.
Sometimes you will need an established organization to back you, but all that is really needed is the idea and the drive to get it done. In most cases there is no charge to you or your organization. It’s a very cost effective way to raise awareness for causes close to your heart!
You never know who you will reach and the lives you might change.
Jackie Zimmerman is an ulcerative colitis and multiple sclerosis patient and the founder and Executive Director of Girls With Guts. Since her diagnosis she has been an avid blogger and patient advocate working hard to empower patients and raise awareness. She spends her free time with her two dogs and playing roller derby.