Guts and glory: IBD community, UBC students raise $70k+ for research at annual march

On Sunday, June 5, UBC students and community members walked to raise over $70,600 at this year’s Gutsy Walk in Vancouver.

The goal of the event, according to Chair of the Vancouver Gutsy Walk Matthew Sebastiani, is to raise awareness and money to support patient programs and fund research for a cure for Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative colitis.

Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative colitis are the two most common forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). These autoimmune disorders target the gut, resulting in inflammation of the digestive tract and symptoms that include abdominal pain, fatigue, bleeding and severe diarrhea. Canada has the highest prevalence of Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative colitis in the world.

The Gutsy Walk opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony headed by the event’s Local Honorary Chair Kacie Haberlin. A golden toilet was also on display at the ceremony, a playful call to the bathroom habits and stigma that every IBD patient knows all too well.

Haberlin, a dental hygiene student who was diagnosed with Crohn's disease in 2020, said meeting people at the march was “huge” for her in an interview with The Ubyssey.

“[It was] amazing how many people came out as well, even though it was raining, but it was just overwhelming [the level of] support,” she said.

Another UBC presence at this year’s Gutsy Walk was a fundraising team spearheaded by Skyler Brown, Otto Lam and Greg Douglas, students from the Master’s of Physiotherapy (MPT) program.

For Douglas, a primary motivator for putting together a team was to challenge the stigma of an “invisible disease."

“I think every dollar counts, but I think for me, the biggest thing is just trying to raise awareness and destigmatize it,” he said.

This year, the event found financial success, both locally and nationally. The UBC MPT team successfully raised $2,730, contributing to the $70,600 total for the Vancouver walk, which aims to raise $74,500 by July 11. Nationally, Gutsy Walk has raised over 2.2 million dollars in 2022.

For Sebastiani, getting the IBD community together goes beyond the value of a dollar.

“[The Gutsy Walk] is really more than a fundraiser. It's more about raising funds. It's about bringing our IBD warrior community together. To share stories, to gain understanding from one another and really create that community of support,” said Sebastiani.