By Sandra Zunino
Renee and Lee Karrh have just about reached the halfway point of their endurance training for the Centurion Canada 50-mile bike race in the Blue Mountains of Ontario as an effort to raise funds for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation (CCFA).
The Centreville couple, along with 38 other participants from all around the country, signed up for the CCFA Team Challenge Cycle Program last spring. A CCFA Team Challenge Cycle coach plans their training schedules and holds conference calls each week to go over the basics of becoming an endurance bike racer. The training started on May 31 and will continue for 16 weeks. At this point, the couple spends seven hours a week on their bicycles and will be riding four hours a day by week 11.
The CCFA’s mission is to cure Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, and to improve the quality of life of children and adults affected by these diseases. More than 82 cents of every dollar the Foundation spends goes to mission-critical programs.
Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are painful, medically incurable illnesses that attack the digestive system. Crohn’s disease may attack anywhere from the mouth to the anus, while ulcerative colitis inflames only the large intestine (colon). Symptoms include abdominal pain, persistent diarrhea, rectal bleeding, fever and weight loss. Many patients require hospitalization and surgery. These illnesses can cause severe complications, including colon cancer in patients with long-term disease. An estimated 1.4 million Americans suffer from Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, with as many as 150,000 under the age of 18. Most people develop the diseases between the ages of 15 and 35.
Both Renee and Lee have been touched by Crohn’s disease on a personal level. Lee’s stepbrother, John Gatch, passed away at age 38 as a result of complications of the disease, and Renee was finally diagnosed with Crohn’s at the age of 29 after repeatedly suffering bouts of colitis. Additionally, because the disease is linked genetically, the Karrh’s two daughters have a greater risk of eventually coming down with Crohn’s.
“Doing this fundraising is not really for me,” says Renee. “It’s for my kids. I’m concerned that one of my two daughters can come down with this disease because of the family history.”
Renee says the money they raise will not only enable more research and create better awareness of these diseases, but also can benefit patients who suffer other autoimmune diseases. According to Renee, medications used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and organ transplant patients are now being used to treat Crohn’s. “They are starting to see that there are linkages between many of these conditions,” says Renee.
Halfway through training, the couple has also almost reached the halfway mark for their fundraising goal of $6800. Renee admits she knew little about fundraising but embraced that challenge as well. “You have to raise so much to participate in the program,” she says. “It’s a little bit of a leap of faith, but so far a lot of people have responded.”
For more information on CCFA contact the Foundation at 800-783-8006 or visit www.ccfa.org. For more information about Renee’s and Lee’s Team Challenge efforts or to make a donation, email Renee.Lee.Karrh@gmail.com or visit http://www.active.com/donate/cycle11national/Renee_Lee_Karrh.