Our Ambassadors

Our inspiring patients are the reason Walk for Hope was created and why we continue to strive to create breakthroughs for every child in our care. All donations to Walk for Hope power inflammatory bowel disease research and care at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). Thank you!

Brayden’s Story

BradenWhen 9-year-old Brayden experienced uncomfortable GI symptoms during a championship football game, his parents initially chalked it up to nerves. Weeks later tender, red bumps appeared on his legs. Local doctors could not identify the cause or offer any relief. The family turned to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) for answers. Clinicians at CHOP immediately recognized the rare, inflammatory skin disorder which is often associated with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Further testing confirmed Brayden had Crohn’s disease, a type of IBD. Soon after, he began treatment with Remicade® (Infliximab), one of the few FDA-approved medications for pediatric patients with stubborn or irretractable IBD, and his symptoms are improving. He’s excited to participate in Walk for Hope to let other kids with IBD know that “a cure is possible if we all work together.”

Michael’s Story

MichaelAt 13 years old, Michael has a lot going for him: he’s smart, athletic and artistic. Diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) at age 5, Michael’s condition has been successfully controlled with oral medication and dietary modifications for 8 years – a milestone he recently celebrated. With the encouragement of his family, Michael has been actively involved in his own medical care since he was young. Michael is part of his school’s gifted and talented program, has achieved honor roll every marking period since fifth grade and loves to play football, baseball and basketball. He’s also very curious, says his mom Maria, “Sometimes, he breaks things just so he can try to fix it!” Michael hopes to pursue a career as an architect or graphic artist to allow him to remain creative as an adult. He and his family are participating in Walk for Hope to “find a cure for IBD and make sure all kids with IBD can just be kids.”

Samantha’s Story

SamanthaThe past year has been a whirlwind of emotions, doctor’s visits and diagnostic tests for Samantha, 11, and her family. A dramatic change in the girl’s usually sweet and optimistic mood and behavior – combined with sudden weight loss – prompted a visit to the pediatrician. When Samantha developed a fistula on her bottom, doctors referred her to CHOP’s Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition for further evaluation. Tests revealed the cause of Samantha’s recent health and related mood changes were due to Crohn’s disease, a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Doctors placed a seton – a piece of surgical thread to keep the fistula open so it could properly drain and heal – and recently removed it. Samantha’s mom, Kimberly, has been impressed with care her oldest daughter has received at CHOP. “Everyone at CHOP has been wonderful! I love that they talk to Samantha and treat her as her own person rather than communicating through me.”

Sophia’s Story

SophiaAfter years of donating teddy bears for young patients at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), 15-year-old Sophia unexpectantly found herself hospitalized there. In the months before her hospitalization, Sophia experienced an odd assortment of health maladies: an injured wrist, a sprained ankle, thigh pain and, frequent bathroom urgency.When she started bleeding unexpectedly, her family brought her to the hospital.After a series of tests, she was diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease and was experiencing her first severe flare. She was hospitalized for a total of 7 weeks before an effective treatment was found. Today, thanks to the “amazing care at CHOP and the medications that gave her life some normalcy, Sophia has been doing so well,” says her mother, Amy. Sophia’s experience at CHOP has inspired her to share her experience, to bring awareness of IBD and raise funds for research. It’s also sparked a potential career: pediatric nursing.

Teagan’s Story

TeaganGrowing up, Teagan was one the tallest of her friends, but when the 11-year-old hadn’t grown in two years –and lost weight at the same time – her family and doctors grew concerned. After a battery of tests including blood work, physical exams and endoscopies, gastroenterologists at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia diagnosed Teagan with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). She recently started taking a new medication to better manage her IBD symptoms. The medication makes her nauseous, but she doesn’t complain. Instead, Melanie says her daughter “has handled her entire IBD experience with poise and determination.” Despite her health challenges, Teagan remains the same friendly, conscientious and determined girl who is always willing to help a friend, stand up for what she believes in and fight injustice. “We are participating in Walk for Hope so Teagan can make a difference and raise funds for IBD research,” Melanie says.

Tim’s Story

TimmyTim’s always been an active kid.Friendly and outgoing, he loves all sports – both as a participant and a spectator. When bowel issues threatened his adventurous lifestyle, his mom Catherine talked to Tim’s pediatrician, who recommended a consultation with a gastroenterologist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Testing confirmed what doctors suspected: Tim had inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The news sent Tim’s close-knit family into a tailspin. His mom and older brother worried about him, but quickly shifted to help Tim find humor wherever he could find it. Of course, with two teen boys, that often led to poop jokes. “Timmy did an amazing job learning how to deal with his new reality,” says Catherine.“Thankfully, his medicine has allowed him to return to his normal life.” With his IBD under control, 15-year-old Tim has returned to competitive soccer and wrestling, and hopes to continue both into college or trade school.

Titus’s Story

TitusAfter months of severe pain and massive weight loss, 7-year-old Titus was admitted to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia on Christmas Day of 2015. It was not how anyone wanted to spend holiday season, but after multiple tests his family finally had an answer: He had Crohn’s disease, a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). During that week in the hospital, Titus was given his first round of Remicade® (Infliximab), one of the few FDA-approved medications for pediatric patients with stubborn IBD. Since then, Titus has continued regular infusions of the medication every seven weeks and, only experienced mild symptoms. Now 13, Titus has grown taller and stronger, and “eats everything in sight,” says his mom, Maygan. Because his infusions can be uncomfortable, Titus’s family times his infusions around breakfast at the CHOP cafeteria, where he loves the star tater tots. He’s excited to participate in Walk for Hope to raise awareness of Crohn’s disease and help support the hospital and people who have cared for him the past 6 years.

Vedant’s Story

VedantVedant is an outgoing and fun-loving preteen who enjoys creating art and playing with his friends. His family brought him to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia seeking a second opinion about ongoing gastrointestinal issues. At CHOP, Verdant was diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease and began treatment. “We are participating in Walk for Hope to encourage other families and children to be motivated to take control of their health and share their experiences,” says Anu, Vedant’s mom. Since Vedant’s inpatient stay at CHOP, his health has dramatically improved. He loves to be active, ride his bike around his neighborhood and practice martial arts.Recently, he earned a first-degree black sash in Kung Fu. While Vedant’s future career path is uncertain – he’s not even in high school yet – he is considering the medical field. “He’s mentioned a couple times that he wants to become a doctor to help others have better health,” Anu says.

  • 2021 Ambassadors

    Anna’s Story

    AnnaBefore being diagnosed with very-early-onset IBD, Anna went through a rough time: diarrhea, stomach pain, fatigue and leg pain so bad, she needed to be carried out of dance class or up the stairs. Because she wasn’t absorbing nutrients, her growth and weight curve flattened. Now, with biologic infusions and guidance from an IBD dietitian, 6-year-old Anna is growing and enjoying dance and soccer. “We strive to eat an anti-inflammatory diet with real foods and little to no processed and artificial foods,” explains her mother, Christina. “We are in a groove, and Anna is able to recognize what foods make her feel good and what doesn’t.”

    Colby’s Story

    ColbyColby, 16, enjoys competing with others in car racing online and plans to be a mechanical engineer. But five years ago, he was plagued by diarrhea and fatigue and was severely underweight. “Our pediatrician suspected IBD right away, and it was confirmed a month later,” says his mother, Jeri. Colby has tried several combinations of medications to control his symptoms and has needed iron infusions — all of which was challenging at first “because he was scared of needles and could not swallow pills,” says Jeri. “Over time, he got over those fears.” The family travels from southern Maryland to receive care at CHOP: “We never leave there without having hope and confidence that things will get better.”

    Emily’s Story

    EmilyAfter a year of experiencing symptoms and then bloodwork results that showed dangerously low levels of hemoglobin, Emily was diagnosed with IBD when she was 17. Months later, she came to CHOP in the middle of a bad flare. “Missing school for six weeks during that admission was tough because it was my senior year of high school,” she says. Happily, she was discharged in time go to prom and graduation. After trying biologics and antibiotics, she underwent several surgeries. “They gave me such relief and significantly increased my quality of life,” she reports. Now 20, she’s at Penn State studying architectural engineering.

    Paige’s Story

    PaigeWhen Paige, 18, begins her studies this fall at Nebraska Wesleyan University, her professional goal has grown out of her personal experience with IBD. “My diagnosis has directed me to be a prehealth/biology major and then go to medical school to be a pediatric GI doctor,” says Paige. As a 10-year-old, she began losing weight and having joint pain so bad she could barely walk. Treatment by a doctor in Omaha got her into remission, but her family began coming to CHOP annually for evaluations and advice on staying healthy. She’s able to maintain an active lifestyle that will include playing on the college basketball team.

    Ronnie’s Story

    RonnieWhen Ronnie was 14, he began losing a lot of weight and vomiting frequently. Since Ronnie was already a CHOP patient for primary care, his family turned to the specialists at CHOP’s Center for Pediatric IBD. Within a few weeks, he was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Biologic infusions and a surgical procedure have gotten his symptoms under control. His mother, Veronica, appreciates her son’s care team: “They were always able to lift Ronnie’s spirits when he felt down — especially when they would tell him it was time to be discharged from his hospital stays!” Now 17, Ronnie enjoys playing basketball and his favorite subject is physics.

    Sarah’s Story

    SarahSarah began experiencing IBD symptoms when she was 14. “We were fortunate that Sarah’s pediatrician was proactive and moved promptly to get her seen at CHOP,” says her mother, Debby. Along with multiple oral medications, Sarah’s initial treatment plan included frequent injections of an immunosuppressive drug, which she found difficult. Treatment adjustments reduced the number of injections. “From the onset of Sarah’s diagnosis, every doctor, nurse practitioner or nurse affiliated with CHOP was fantastic when it came to Sarah’s care,” says her father, Steve. Now 16, Sarah enjoys Irish dance, photography, painting, playing with her dog, Bailey, and listening to music.

    Sofia’s Story

    SofiaEnergetic and adventurous, 6-year-old Sofia is working on her back handspring at gymnastics class. But two years ago, she had terrible diarrhea, felt lethargic and wasn’t growing. At CHOP she was diagnosed with very-early-onset IBD. To control her symptoms, she receives medication at home and comes to CHOP every six weeks for biologic infusions — a day her parents always try to make special. CHOP’s child life experts help keep the experience positive. “They are amazing,” says her mother, Nicole. “They made her a ‘bravery bead string.’” At every infusion, Sofia picks a bead to add to her string. She currently has 22 beads.

    Thomas’s Story

    ThomasSeven years ago, when Thomas was 4, he began using the bathroom more than 20 times a day. As IBD was thought to occur most often in older kids and adults, he first tried dietary changes. Then his family came to CHOP’s Very Early Onset IBD Program. With regular biologic infusions, his symptoms are manageable. “Thomas has had more than 100 infusions, and he completes each one with a positive attitude,” says his mother, Heather. “When the nurse inserts the needle, he never fusses.” By planning ahead, he’s leading a life without limitations: “He loves playing soccer, and he tries new sports like lacrosse and skiing with little thought about how his IBD will impact him.”

  • 2020 Ambassadors

    Abby’s Story

    AbbyIn summer 2018, after a year of increasing blood in her stool, Abby lost 20-plus pounds and became anemic. Because she always needed a bathroom nearby, she avoided traveling in a car for any extended period. The typical anxieties that come with starting high school were heightened because of her health issues. The family turned to CHOP. Now, regular biologic infusions control her ulcerative colitis symptoms. “There are plans for a trip this summer to Colorado or Oregon,” reports her mother, Jen. “The CHOP doctors brought ‘normalcy’ back to Abby and our family. There are no words to accurately capture our gratitude.”

    Brandon’s Story

    BrandonWhen Brandon was 6, severe stomach pains, frequent trips to the bathroom, weight loss and fatigue overtook his life. “At the time, Brandon had no energy to do anything, especially play the sports he loved,” say his parents, Shannon and Shawn. After being diagnosed at CHOP with Crohn’s disease, he went through what Shannon calls “a year of medicine trials,” trying four different treatments before landing on a combination that controlled his symptoms. Now 11, he’s full of energy, and his family is thrilled to help raise funds to find a cure for IBD.

    Charlotte’s Story

    CharlotteCharlotte has had stomach issues all her life, but when she was 7, bellyaches, frequent bathroom trips and joint pains left her “not wanting to do anything but sleep,” says her mother, Jennifer. Food made her feel terrible. After a Crohn’s disease diagnosis at CHOP, her symptoms are kept under control by biologic infusions. She’s now having fun with her siblings and dog, playing basketball and enjoying fourth grade. “Charlotte felt very alone when she learned she had Crohn’s disease,” says Jennifer. “She didn’t know any other children her age that suffered from IBD.” As a Walk for Hope Ambassador, she’s happy to share her story and give hope to other kids like her.

    Ellie’s Story

    EllieWhen 7-year-old Ellie began having diarrhea and feeling lethargic in summer 2018, her personality underwent a huge shift: She went from happy-go-lucky to troubled, sad and worried. At CHOP, biologic infusions have gotten her physical symptoms under control, and the child life specialists tend to her emotional needs. “They build Ellie’s bravery beads necklace at every visit,” explains her father, Scott, who also has Crohn’s disease — which is why the family wants to do everything they can to find new IBD treatment options and, ultimately, a cure.

    Emmy’s Story

    EmmyEmmy’s severe symptoms — which appeared when she was 8 — made her very sick, and her life was essentially on hold for several months, during which time she missed a lot of school. After a Crohn’s disease diagnosis, Emmy started on oral steroids and then transitioned to biologic infusions, which she receives every seven weeks. She’s now fully enjoying her favorite activities, singing and acting — she even landed the lead part in her school’s production of Cinderella. “Emmy is very passionate about educating others about IBD, and she is an amazing advocate for herself,” explains her mother, Tiffany, with pride.

    Louise’s Story

    LouiseLouise’s symptoms began when she was 13, and they weren’t typical. Instead of weight loss or diarrhea, she got an extremely high and persistent fever. At different points, pancreas problems, celiac disease and stomach ulcers were all suspects. After a year of inconclusive tests, a colonoscopy at CHOP led to a Crohn’s disease diagnosis. Infusions of a synthetic antibody and low doses of the anti-inflammatory drug methotrexate keep her symptoms under control, so this honors student can maintain her busy schedule that includes robotics club, chess club, jewelry-making and more.

    Luca’s Story

    LucaLuca’s family tends to eat a natural diet, so when he began complaining of stomach pains after he started middle school, his mother Gina assumed the less-healthy foods at school were to blame. Then Luca began losing significant weight. Within months, a colonoscopy led to a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease. “Everything happened so quickly,” Gina says, which felt overwhelming, but ultimately for the better, considering how for some children, a diagnosis remains elusive for years. Now 12, Luca follows a nutritional therapy routine that leans heavily on protein smoothies and organic, unprocessed foods.

    Natalia’s Story

    NataliaIn September 2018, Natalia’s severe abdominal pain and lack of energy led to numerous visits to the family’s local emergency department. A month later she was at CHOP, where doctors diagnosed her with Crohn’s disease. While infusions of antibody helped control her symptoms, she continued to experience flare-ups, leading to surgery that removed a damaged section of her intestine. Now full of energy, 15-year-old Natalia loves all types of dancing, participates in the debate team, and is determined to pursue a career as a corporate lawyer.

    Rubin’s Story

    RubinOver time, Rubin began experience increasing lethargy, weight loss and physical discomfort. Once he received his IBD diagnosis at age 9, he immediately saw the results of managing his condition. “He didn’t miss a beat,” says his mother, Christine. “He didn’t miss any school or complain.” These days, Rubin, now 11, is feeling healthier than ever and excels at cross country and 5K races. He’s committed to healthy eating and a meatless diet. His oral medications likely won’t control his symptoms in the long-term, so his care team is working on escalating his therapy to IV infusions. Rubin’s outlook remains positive and strong.

    Savannah’s Story

    SavannahSix-year-old Savannah has already endured a great deal. Bloody bowel movements and a distended stomach landed her in the hospital, where tests pointed to IBD. Savannah came to CHOP’s Very Early Onset IBD Program for young children, who sometimes do not respond to traditional treatments. Savannah has needed extended inpatient stays, a feeding tube, steroids, blood transfusions, iron infusions, and a surgical procedure to divert digestive waste away from the lower intestines to an external collection bag. Today, she lights up a room and is eager to show off her cheerleading skills.

  • 2019 Ambassadors
    Brandon

    Brandon

    Brandon’s mom jokes that he’ll grow up to be either an actor or a scientist. Whatever he ends up doing, his parents are overjoyed to see their son happy and engaged after struggling with IBD.

    Clarice

    Clarice

    Clarice, 17, shares her story with others to remove the stigma surrounding inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

    Eddie

    Eddie

    After an arduous journey to find an IBD treatment that worked long-term and didn’t give him unacceptable side effects, Eddie is able to focus on practicing his basketball technique.

    Fiona

    Fiona

    Fiona keeps her IBD symptoms under control through nutritional therapy. She’s now enjoying her favorite hobbies and thinking of turning her love of animals into a career.

    Garrett

    Garrett

    After his IBD diagnosis, Garrett couldn’t be far from a bathroom after eating. Now, he eats nonstop – his favorite food is chocolate and vanilla swirl ice cream.

    Katie

    Katie

    IBD used to keep Katie sidelined from her beloved dance lessons. After treatment at CHOP, Katie is energetically dancing again.

    Kaylen

    Kaylen

    Kaylen went through episodes when she would double over from stomachs pains. Now she’s back to her favorite activities, including soccer and baking.

    Kyle

    Kyle

    Kyle’s Crohn’s disease used to keep him sidelined from his favorite passion – soccer. A new medication has him back in action.

    Lacey

    Lacey

    Severe stomach pain brought Lacey to CHOP’s Emergency Department, where a doctor finally recognized her symptoms as IBD. She’s now a strong advocate for the need for more research.

    Max

    Max

    As a very independent kid and “a big ham,” 12-year-old Max isn’t letting his Crohn’s disease dampen his big personality.

  • 2018 Ambassadors
    Jillian

    Jillian

    After treatment for Crohn’s disease, Jillian has resumed competitive dancing and hopes to pursue a career in nursing.

    Landen

    Landen

    Diagnosed with very early onset inflammatory bowel disease (VEO-IBD) when he was only 18 months old, Landen is now responding well to treatment and is thriving.

    Paige

    Paige

    After being diagnosed and treated for IBD, Paige is now growing, thriving and dancing competitively.

    Sydney

    Sydney

    With medication and nutritional therapy at CHOP, Sydney has transformed from a very sick toddler to a thriving pre-teen.

    Ty

    Ty

    Surgery at CHOP gave Ty his first real relief from stomach pain since his Crohn’s disease started.

    William

    William

    Finding the right combination treatment was key to helping William bounce back from his ulcerative colitis.

    Zachary

    Zachary

    Nutritional therapy proved to be the key to treating Zachary’s Crohn’s disease and eventual remission.