Event to aid illness study

Benefit ride, dinner for Crohn’s slated

MILFORD – After a New Year’s Eve party left her sick for weeks, Jessica Mann was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.

That was six years ago. Since then Mann, 31, has been in and out of the hospi­tal, some­times for 3 0 – d a y stays, as d o c t o r s try to find medica­tions that will get her dis­ease under control. This month, she spent two weeks in Massachusetts General’s Crohn’s and Colitis Center.

Crohn’s is a chronic in­flammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract. It has no known cause and there is no cure.

For some people, it can be handled relatively eas­ily, Mann said. They take medication and live a normal life. But for her, it has been much harder to treat, and the disease

and its treatment have changed nearly every­thing in her life.

Mann can no longer work, and four years ago she had to move back in with her mother in Mil­ford. Having a normal social life is difficult, and the medications can play havoc with her body.

Taking steroids, she gained more than 100 pounds. Since last Au­gust, she has lost more than 70 pounds.

Two years ago, Mann de­cided it was time to help – meaning help the more than 1 million Americans, many of them children, who live with Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis.

With friends and fam­ily, she organized A Night Without Crohn’s benefit at the Milford VFW. All the money went to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America, New England chapter, for research, ed­ucational programs and support groups.

The next year, she or­ganized another benefit. This year’s benefit will take place Saturday, Aug. 13, at the VFW again. There will be a motorcycle run, followed by a dinner, dance, silent auction and a "jail and bail." Mann is hoping to raise $5,000 for the foundation, as much as they raised during the first two benefits.

Educating people about Crohn’s is an important part of Mann’s goal. Well-meaning friends have told her that if she just eats this or that, or avoids eating this or that, she’ll get better. She wishes it were that simple.

"It has to do with stress and medications," she said. "It’s not just the di­gestive system."

Complicating her treat­ment are allergies to some medications, and the disease itself causes nerve damage that makes the condition worse.

People "try to be help­ful," but they don’t under­stand, said Janet Dewitz, Mann’s mother, who has spent hours online trying to learn about the disease.

But planning the bene­fit has brightened Mann’s spirits, and she’s grateful for the many generous friends and relatives who are helping out.

Her young nephews and nieces are making posters, creating a Face­book page and helping in every way they can.

"They are adorable, and they just want me to be healthy," she said.

Organizers are looking for silent auction items. So far, they have a long list of gift certificates for things such as ski and the­ater tickets, a wine tast­ing, dance lessons and an overnight stay at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.

For more information, email MannJessica59@ yahoo.com.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.