NAUGATUCK — Rhonda Lord ran her first half-marathon in Cheshire in June 2012 to raise money for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, even though she knew very little about either disease.
Two months later, her then 8-year-old daughter, Piper, was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract.
“She had no previous symptoms, and honestly the reason I wanted to run was just to get in shape,” Rhonda Lord said.
Three years later, Lord continues to run and to raise money for the foundation through Team Challenge, which consists of thousands of people nationwide who run to raise money for cures for Crohn’s disease and colitis.
The foundation describes the two conditions on its website as two painful, debilitating and seldom-discussed digestive diseases that affect one in 200 Americans, including 150,000 children nationwide.
As an addendum to Team Challenge, Lord and her friends have come up with an annual party called Piperpalooza. The second-annual event, which features a pasta dinner fundraiser plus comedy, music and raffles, will benefit Team Challenge and the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation. It will be held Sunday, June 7, from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Shamrock Bar and Grille, 210 Meadow St., Waterbury.
Tickets are $20 per person and children 7 and under get in free. Kevin Dolan will provide the comedy, and live music will be played by the Greg Sherrod Band, the Palindromes and Chuck Czajkowski. Tickets are available at the door and information can be obtained by emailing Lori Czajkowski at firstname.lastname@example.org or Rhonda Lord at email@example.com.
Piper has moderate to severe Crohn’s disease. She gets ulcers in her mouth and joint pain due to her condition. She is on two antibiotics and steroids and cannot go out in the sunshine because of the side effects of the medication.
She is also frequently fatigued and takes many medications to lead a normal life; those medications, according to her mother, increase her risk of cancer by 50 percent.
At one point, doctors worried they might have to remove part of Piper’s small intestine, but they were able to cure her symptoms with medicine.
Through it all, Piper has remained a fighter, Rhonda Lord said.
This past weekend, she participated in the final mile of the Kids Marathon in Cheshire, though she had to walk most of it. And she uses her great reading and writing skills to help her own cause.
“She speaks and brings awareness to what we’re doing,” Rhonda Lord said. “She is very optimistic and wants to help spread the word.”