Ryan Diamond, a seventh-grader at the Epstein School, has been chosen as an Honored Hero for this year’s Take Steps Walk for Crohn’s and Colitis on Sunday, May 1.

“Ryan is just a good all-around kid. He likes sports, music and hanging out with his friends,” Doug Diamond said of his 13-year-old son.

Ryan Diamond

Ryan Diamond

Doing the walk is a way for him to feel good about helping other people, his father said. Ryan put it this way: “The walk is a couple of hours. It’s an event to raise awareness and money for people who have it so they can lead a better, easier life.”

It’s been a hard road to get here, though. Ryan was diagnosed in 2014 and has had to make quite a few adjustments in his life.

“The medicine I’m taking has helped, but I’m still tired a lot,” he said during a phone interview.

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, collectively referred to as inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs), affect a disproportionate number of Ashkenazi Jews. As yet there is no cure.

Despite his situation, Ryan is still engaged in basketball, track, soccer and water sports. “He’s getting back to himself, though clearly last year was tough for him,” Doug said. “It made it harder for him to participate in a lot of these activities; he was just acclimating himself and dealing with the repercussions of being diagnosed. He’s getting some of his energy back. Fatigue is one of the issues, but the more he does, the better he feels.”

Doug said about half a dozen other kids at Epstein have been diagnosed with IBD in recent years. “I don’t think they spend a lot of time dwelling on it,” he said. “Just knowing that there are others going through something similar makes you feel probably a little less isolated.”

One of those classmates is Ryan’s friend Carly Spandorfer, whose brother, Jack, was an Honored Hero at last year’s Take Steps event. Both will be joining Ryan for the walk May 1.

His mother, Margo, said Ryan has taken a keen interest in investigating the disease itself. “We went to three hospitals – Philadelphia, Boston and here at Egleston – and everywhere we went, he asked each doctor and nurse, ‘What can I do to find a cure for this disease? Are you doing any research? Can I participate in it?’ ”

He helped raise a little over $11,000 last year for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, according to Margo, and will try again this year. In addition, Ryan set up a lemonade stand with friends and donated that money to Camp Oasis, a summer camp for kids with IBD.

Margo said the family was shocked by the initial diagnosis. “We were caught off-guard. We weren’t expecting it. We were surprised that it does not have a cure and thought it’s just an easy fix. It’s tough.”
What: Take Steps Atlanta Walk for Crohn’s and Colitis

Where: International Plaza, Georgia World Congress Center, 285 Andrew Young International Blvd., downtown

When: 1 p.m. Sunday, May 1

Registration and donations: cctakesteps.org