Proceeds go toward critical research to better diagnose and ultimately cure inflammatory bowel disease, which includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Not coincidentally, most of the honorees, host committee members and committee chairs are Jewish, most of whom have personal family involvement with the disease.
The night’s honorees are Steve Morris, the Premier Physician of the Year; Sam and Gina Shapiro, the Citizens of the Year; and Barb Mays, the Volunteer of the Year.
“This is personal because I have spent almost four decades taking care of patients with ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, and it is rewarding to be recognized for something that is often humbling, challenging and a privilege to do on a daily basis,” Morris said.
“Individuals of Jewish ancestry are up to four times as prone to develop the disease. In fact, Crohn’s disease is named after Dr. Burrill Crohn, who with his colleagues, Oppenheimer and Ginzburg, described the first 14 patients at Mount Sinai in New York City with Crohn’s in 1932 — all of whom were Ashkenazi Jews.”
Gala chair Roberta Sirzyk said: “I am excited about this year’s gala. I have been a member of the organization for 22 years. I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in the first year of college and have a very strong family history of this disease. I did not get involved until my son was diagnosed at age 8. Over the next 10 years my daughters were also diagnosed. You could say I hit the Crohn’s trifecta — three children, all with IBD.
“When I was diagnosed, the medications were limited to a handful, and now there are so many alternatives. My children are all on medication and are in remission. I have three grandchildren, and my husband and I are committed to finding a cure for them.”
Gina Shapiro said: “Decades ago our son was diagnosed with ileitis, which was not well defined yet as Crohn’s and about which there was very little conversation. The nature of the symptoms can be embarrassing in itself. Fortunately, we were referred to the foundation for education and support. They were always there for us, guiding, helping along.”
“When I think of all the people who have been honored over the last 50 years, I feel humbled to be honored,” Mays said. “I became part of the CCFA family when our daughter, Meredith, was diagnosed with IBD. I do not know how I would have handled everything without my CCFA friends.
“I was thrilled to be involved with CCFA. I was on the board of trustees, and I want to tell my story, raise money for research and help other parents answer questions related to their child. I’m hoping that the money raised at this year’s Torch Gala will propel a cure that will end suffering.”
The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation is the largest nonprofit, voluntary health organization dedicated to finding cures for inflammatory bowel disease. The foundation’s mission is to cure Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis and to improve the quality of life of those who suffer from these diseases.
The foundation finances research, provides educational resources for patients and their families, medical professionals, and the public, and offers supportive services.
The gala includes a seated dinner, live music and dancing, and live and silent auctions. Neal Maziar will serve as the master of ceremonies.
What: Torch Gala
Where: InterContinental Buckhead, 3315 Peachtree Road
When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 3
Tickets: $350 ($175 for those 21 to 35); www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org/TorchGala2018 or 404-982-0616 (Shannon Primm)