Twenty-three-year-old Gavin Kierulf, the honourary chair of Victoria’s 2022 Gutsy Walk, has been living with a debilitating disease since he was a young child.
“It can be difficult,” Gavin says. “You spend a lot of time in the bathroom away from friends and family doing things. You always have to know where the bathroom is.”
Gavin was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease when he was eight- years old, but he was symptomatic long before that.
“The hardest part was getting a diagnosis,” says Gavin’s mom Ellen Kierulf. “We had to really push and push and push. We knew there was something wrong with Gavin and it took a few years of him suffering before we ended up at BC Children’s Hospital.”
One in 140 Canadians lives with Crohn’s or colitis. Chronic and incurable, it prevents the body from digesting and absorbing food and many people suffer in silence.
“It is tricky sometimes because you might be in a lot of pain or require some assistance or special considerations and because you’re not necessarily visibly disabled it can be a little hard to get people to help you out,” says Gavin.
But finding support networks through Crohn’s and Colitis Canada was a big help—not just for Gavin, but also for his family.
“It’s a difficult disease because people don’t talk about it,” Ellen explains. “You know, it’s your guts, right? And you’re talking about going to the bathroom and things people don’t want to talk about and so it’s fun to be with people who get it and you can laugh about things.”
To give back to the organization that helped them, Ellen and Gavin started volunteering several years ago.
“I’ve found support with people through this so I want to be able to support people back,” Gavin says.
“I love volunteering,” adds Ellen. “It’s always been a part of my life and this is a really good cause. I love to be in a community where everyone is in it together for the good.”
Gavin, who is now in remission, is now fundraising for this year’s Gutsy Walk on June 5th.
It’s an important fundraiser for Crohn’s and Colitis Canada.
There’s no central walk again this year, due to COVID, but scavenger hunt maps are being posted to the Get Gutsy Victoria Facebook page with four locations to choose from.