Melville, NY

Long Islanders Take Steps for IBD

Maia Vines

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Lisa Schwerdt and Suzanne Beck at the road rally in Melville, Sunday, June 6, 2021.Maia Vines

MELVILLE, NY—On June 6, supporters from all across Long Island participated in the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation’s first ever local Take Steps Road Rally.

The foundation and its chapters’ year-round events raise awareness for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, the two main forms of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). Take Steps, an annual walk, is one in-person event that has not occurred in two years due to COVID-19 restrictions. This year, the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation’s Long Island chapter decided to turn the walk into a road rally in which the walking route would be completed from an attendee’s car.

“By the end of the year [2020], we came up with a concept for a road rally, so probably in December,” said walk director Suzanne Beck who received requests from former walkers and volunteers about hosting a live event this year. “We have 102 teams registered for the actual event and that equals 450 participants, which if we were virtual, we wouldn't have had that success.”

At the rally, consisting of various activity stations along the route, walkers and their teams played trivia, made TikTok videos, and won prizes for water balloon toss games. Many teams decorated their cars with flags, banners, and streamers in support of the foundation’s mission, either beforehand or at the event’s car decorating station. Throughout the route, attendees listened to the event’s program as well as music from the DJ tent on WPLR-FM through their car radio.

“We’ve been sponsoring Take Steps for a number of years but it’s our first time as the welcome sponsor,” said Robert Liberto, CEO of Gourmet Boutique, a Queens-based food service manufacturing company. “It’s great to be back. We have an opportunity to meet with people and see people face-to-face that we haven’t in a while.”

Over 20 sponsors—both local and national, including Charles Schwab, Northwell Health, Deep River Snacks, and Long Island Speakers Bureau came out to assist in the fundraiser. Participants also donated money to the foundation prior to attending, eventually surpassing the chapter’s goal of $250,000 by the end of the day. Although there is no current cure for either disease, funds raised at Take Steps events not only go towards educational programming and patient services, but they also aid in research on curing IBD.

“The core of what we do is raise money but also to increase the people that are involved,” said Take Steps committee chair Ronald Berkowitz, who has been a patient of IBD since 1996. “On Long Island, there are thousands of people afflicted with these illnesses and a lot of times you don't even know. So if you say, ‘Hey, I'm going to this event,’ or ‘Hey, I'm raising money for this event,’ all of a sudden, someone might say to you, ‘Oh, I know someone who has it.”

The Long Island chapter will be hosting another Take Steps event in October on the North Shore.

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Maia is a NY-based student journalist who often covers arts and culture, food and business news. She is committed to fairly and accurately presenting the news in a variety of mediums.

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