By: Jen Russon
Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, affecting some 1.6 million Americans, is no laughing matter; however, this October, a fundraising event promises big laughs and heightened awareness.
Fundraising for this disease calls for bringing out the big guns, and this year that means veteran comedian, Tom Papa.
Comedy Night’s Event Chairwoman, Beth Laggan said, “Tom’s great. He’s done a lot with Jerry Seinfeld, and has a new show that premiered in September on the Food Network called Baked.”
Lagan also mentioned Papa’s work in countless HBO, Comedy Central and Netflix shows. She is excited about his resume, which includes writing and starring in “Live From Here”. The comedian is also featured on “Out In America With Tom Papa,” heard regularly by the 2.6 million fans of the weekly radio show. Some may recognize the comedian as host of SiriusXM’s Come to Papa, and voice in “Bee Movie”.
In addition to Papa’s standup, Comedy Night will feature a silent auction.
“Local businesses have donated some amazing things: jewelry, trips, tickets to sports events, restaurants, etc. – if you can’t make it to the event, you can do the silent auction online,” said Laggan.
She added that it means the world to her and her family to work toward finding a cure and raising awareness.
The event will promote awareness of the two diseases, not to be confused because they are quite different. Crohn’s may affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract, from the mouth to the anus. Ulcerative colitis is limited to the colon. Left untreated, both conditions are not only life threatening, but create excruciating symptoms.
Laggan’s youngest daughter, Angelina, was diagnosed with a severe case of ulcerative colitis in 2014. At first, her disease was managed with steroids and other drugs that didn’t work. Angelina was gravely ill, unable to share in activities with her peers, and missed a lot of school.
“My daughter was feeling sick all the time and bleeding so much that I felt completely helpless,” Laggan, who has two older daughters, said.
She added that sometimes raising money for inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD, is frustrating.
“People seem to associate it with irritable bowel syndrome, when in fact it is inflammatory bowel disease, a life threatening disease with no cure,” Laggan said, adding that others tend to categorize IBD as something less serious than cancer.
This makes Laggan upset.
“The long term effects of my daughter’s medication have possible side effects resulting in cancer. People just aren’t educated enough about the disease. To be honest, I had no idea until my daughter was diagnosed. I was so shocked and devastated.”
She reports that Angelina is now on the top-tier of medications called Remicade. It’s helping mitigate symptoms, but has its disadvantages. Her daughter’s risk of colon cancer is raised by thirty percent. She is also more susceptible to lupus, tuberculosis, skin rashes and a compromised immune system.
The Laggan family lives in Coral Springs; in addition to Angelina, 14, they have two older daughters, Sabrina,18, and Sophia,15. Sabrina, a graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglas, attends FSU with plans to study life sciences. The girls’ father, Richard, is a managing partner at EQUUS Global Aviation, a sponsor of comedy night.
Laggan’s co-chair is Misty Baniewicz, of Parkland, who was diagnosed in 2011 with IBD. The pair, who both live in Heron Bay, have a lot of empathy for one another.
“She just turned 40 and has already been through many surgeries, has had many complications, a colectomy bag and a reversal, so she knows it all to well. I brought her [Baniewicz] on board the foundation last year, and this year asked her to be my co-chair,” said Laggan.
The Ninth Annual Comedy Night for Crohn’s and Colitis will be held on Thursday October 18, 2018 at 6 p.m. at the Coral Springs Center for the Arts, 2855 Coral Springs Drive. Tickets are on sale for $75 per person. A cocktail reception will precede the 7:45 p.m. performance. Tickets can be purchased here.
Jen Russon is a freelance writer and English Language Arts teacher. She has published two novels to Amazon Kindle and lives in Coral Springs with her family.