News

Fonthill girl raising awareness for IBD

Laura Barton

By Laura Barton, Tribune Staff

Rachel Veldhuizen, centre, her mother Laureli and younger sister Taylor are ready for Welland’s Main Street Bridge and other Niagara landmarks to be lit purple to create awareness for inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis, which Rachel has. Laura Barton/Welland Tribune/Postmedia News

Rachel Veldhuizen, centre, her mother Laureli and younger sister Taylor are ready for Welland’s Main Street Bridge and other Niagara landmarks to be lit purple to create awareness for inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis, which Rachel has. Laura Barton/Welland Tribune/Postmedia News

Eleven-year-old Rachel Veldhuizen is using her struggles with ulcerative colitis to raise awareness for the disease in the hopes of finding a cure.

The Fonthill preteen is a lot like other kids in that she likes to be active, read and play games, but having ulcerative colitis presents a number of challenges for her.

Ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease, causes her a lot of pain, diarrhea, bloody stool and dehydration. Because of it, she sometimes misses out on school and activities since she both doesn’t feel well and needs to stay near a bathroom.

“When I don’t have a flare up I have lots of energy,” she said via email.

Her mom Laureli Veldhuizen also said via email her daughter has always been healthy and active, but then she started showing signs of having an IBD a few years ago.

“For four months before she was finally diagnosed we took her to a variety of doctors and hospitals trying to get answers to what was going on with her,” she said.

At the time, Rachel was only nine; she was officially diagnosed in February 2015.

Two years later, Rachel is participating in the Gutsy Walk for Chron’s and Colitis Canada and has been chosen to be the honorary chair for Niagara by the organization.

As the honorary chair, Rachel said she has the opportunity to speak to people about ulcerative colitis and IBDs in general at the Gutsy Walk, which takes place in early June in Niagara Falls.

She said she likes to share what she knows about the diseases, which affect one in 150 Canadians, because she hopes more awareness will help doctors find a cure.

Veldhuizen said she is proud of her daughter for wanting to help others, but added it’s not easy to see her go through what she does.

“As a parent, it’s hard to walk this journey with your child who can feel great one week and terrible the next,” she said.

May 19 is World IBD Day and several landmarks in the region are going to be lit purple tomorrow evening in recognition. Welland’s Main Street Bridge, Niagara Falls, the Skylon Tower in Niagara Falls and the Peace Bridge in Fort Erie will each be lit up.

Rachel’s team for the Gutsy Walk is called Rachel’s Party Poopers, and so far they have raised over $4,500 between online and offline donations. Her team page can be found by going to gutsywalk.com and selecting Niagara under the locations section.

The Gutsy Walk takes place June 4 at Fireman’s Park in Niagara Falls starting at 10 a.m. More information is available on the website.

lbarton@postmedia.com

Twitter: @LBartonTribune 



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