Palmer Trinity ninth grader Emily Kalbac is no ordinary high school freshman. Kalbac is a go getter who is constantly working to raise money and awareness for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America. Her older brother Tyler’s tough battle with ulcerative colitis made her aware of the condition.
“Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis are two very painful auto-immune diseases of the intestines that affect millions of people each year, teenagers in particular,” she writes in a news release about a fundraiser she will host in April. “In 2008, Tyler, was diagnosed with an extremely rare and severe case of ulcerative colitis. He had to endure nine major surgeries and 15 procedures just to save his life.”
At the time, Tyler attended Palmer Trinity School. He began the Climb-4- Colitis to raise money for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America. Since he is now away at college, Emily has taken on the job of organizing the event.
Climb-4-Colitis is scheduled for April 27 at the X-treme Rock Climbing Gym, 13972, SW 139 Ct., near the Tamiami Airport. Kalbac says they expect a good crowd, especially since they are partnering with the University of Miami and Columbus and Palmetto High Schools.
“We have some liaison for all those schools,” she says. “Most of the kids are my age and we’re trying to attract people this age and make more people aware.”
The plan is to fly Tyler down for the event so that everyone can see how well he is doing
“He’s doing so much better now,” she says.“He’s participating in sports and he has friends. He has a good attitude.”
Kalbac says her brother’s problems began when he was hit in the face by a baseball while playing for Palmer Trinity in a championship game.
“It shocked him,” she says. “He was on top of the world, having fun and in a matter of minutes it all changed.”
Kalbac says there is a link between severe facial injuries and colitis.
“We have had a lot of friends who have had facial injuries from sports and they’ve ended up with colitis,” she says. “We want to do some research. We talked to some doctors at UM.”
One of the doctors is willing to partner with Kalbac because she knows Tyler and has been learning more about the potential connection between facial injuries and colitis.
When Kalbac’s brother suffered his injury, it was severe enough that it broke every bone in his face. Later, the colitis developed. At the time, she couldn’t do much to help, but now she is in a position of being able to help not only her brother, but others with the condition by continuing the things he started such as the Climb-4- Colitis and the Crohn’s and Colitis Walk. She is also starting a Colitis Club at school. “We are going to have other events throughout the year,”Kalbac says. “Most people don’t know about colitis. I talk to kids and they ask ‘what is colitis?’ Now they are finding that colitis is in younger kids and it can cause cancer when they are older.”
Kalbac says researchers believe they are going to find a cure for colitis.
“Every dollar counts at this point,” she says. “All of my teachers are behind me and helping me with this. And my teachers knew my brother. They are so compassionate and they are so willing to help.”
By Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld