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Honored Heroes share their stories to let other patients know they are not alone on their journeys — because no one should face the challenges and uncertainty of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in isolation. Through their stories, Honorees raise awareness of these diseases, raise funds to support the Foundation’s mission and inspire hope in those living with IBD.

To nominate a Take Steps Honoree, please complete this form.

Meet our 2024 Honored Heroes

Pediatric Honored Hero: Rhys Hamilton 

Rhys’ story begins with his parents always knowing something wasn’t quite right with his health. Even from their very first night home with him as a newborn. At his 18-month check, his pediatrician checked his hemoglobin, and the results sent him to the ER, where Rhys was admitted and remained for 1 of his 9 admissions since his journey began.

Following scans and ultrasounds, his medical team decided it was in his best interest to have a colonoscopy. He was diagnosed with Very Early Onset Inflammatory Bowel Disease/ Crohn’s Disease. Rhys was admitted and spent a couple of weeks in the hospital. During this time, his parents found the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation.

Rhys is still too little to understand his disease and diagnosis. His parents do try to read to him and tell him about it through books and play therapy. They encourage him to do all he can and try not to allow this to limit him. His disease doesn’t define him, but it does make up for a large portion of his life, which is why his family is often reminded why advocacy, awareness, and a cure are needed. 

“Rhys isn’t in remission yet, but we remain hopeful that his time will come. He is in a much better position than he was a year ago and has already overcome so much. We don’t know why Rhys has Crohn’s Disease, but we do know that he is a Warrior and truly an Honored Hero. We are proud as a family to participate in the Take Steps Walk and honored to walk along all brave patients, caregivers, families, and healthcare professionals. The Take Steps Walk is so important as it gives an opportunity to spread awareness and really involve the community in what is going on and how they can help!” 

There currently is zero FDA approved treatments for children under 6. Rhys is 2 years old. He loves garbage trucks, playing outside, collecting rocks, playing with his friends, dinosaurs, cars, reading books, and going to the Berry Farms.

To learn more about Rhys visit his team page here

Rising Star Honored Hero: Isabel Martinez 

“My name is Isabel Martinez, and I am currently a senior at Florida International University. I will graduate in April with a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology and a Bachelor of Arts in Natural and Applied Sciences.

I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease when I was just 11 years old, back in 2013. During my senior year of high school in 2020, COVID-19 turned the world upside down and I faced some of my biggest challenges. The pills that I had been taking since I was 11 years old had stopped working, and this started a roller coaster of issues. Over the course of the next 4 months, I still had online classes, I graduated high school (virtually), and started college at FIU, all while having daily intense pains. 

On September 29, 2020, after several hospital visits, stays, and tests, I had a Laparoscopic Ileum Bowel Resection, which is when the whole section (cecum) containing the end of the small intestine, the start of the colon, and the appendix, were removed. Since then, I have been taking injections, and I still have days where I feel weak and just need a break, but I couldn’t be more grateful to be in complete remission!

Miami Take Steps is an event I look forward to every year, but not because it’s just any event. It’s another opportunity that I can share my story and spread as much awareness as I can about these debilitating conditions. This will be the 10th year I participate as Team Captain for my team, Team Izzy, and I couldn’t be more grateful to be the 2024 Young Adult Honored Hero. I am proud and committed to making a difference for both me and for all those living with IBD!”

To learn more about Izzy visit her team page here 

Adult Honored Hero: Jami Brown 

"Growing up in New York City I was a healthy child and adolescent without any significant health problems. At the age of 18 years old, I began my freshman year at college at the university of Wisconsin and like every other teenager, I couldn’t wait to begin my college years. But I became lethargic all the time, and didn’t know what was wrong, then I began to lose weight.

Concerned, I went to the University’s hospital and was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. It was a scary time of course, and I didn’t know what this would mean for the rest of my life, let alone my college years. 

In 1998, when I was 24 years old, I had no choice but to have a laparoscopic ileocolic resection. The doctors took a foot of my intestines out! Can you imagine?? But thank god I did, as I have now been in remission for 26 years! 

I was so happy to be in remission that in my early thirties I wanted to give back to the community. I joined the CCFA-YP (the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America – Young Professionals), I met wonderful people who shared similar experiences and I loved being a part of that community.

Getting diagnosed with Crohn’s was a scary and traumatic experience for me, but it also gave me an opportunity to learn more about my body, and to meet incredible doctors and nurses in Wisconsin, New York, and Miami and to see the impact they can have on people’s daily lives. I have been volunteering again with the CCFA, but this time the South Florida Chapter. I am so grateful to everyone who helped me, and I am excited to give back and help other people as they navigate and cope with this disease."

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