First off, you have to love the name of the organization – Intestinal Fortitude. There can be no better a name for a group that is raising money to support the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA).
The mission of the CCFA is to “cure Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, and to improve the quality of life of children and adults affected by these diseases.”
Colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease, and Crohn’s is a chronic disease that causes inflammation of the digestive or gastrointestinal (GI) tract, most commonly affecting the small intestine or colon.
Intestinal Fortitude, which launched only about seven months ago, has already forged a strong national network of support and raised more than $140,000.
Intestinal Fortitude was founded by Jake Marcus, 21, an Oliver Ames High School grad who will begin his senior year at in September.
Jake’s inspiration to found the group was his father, Steve Marcus, an attorney who, with his wife, Carol Augustyniak, has lived in Easton since 1985. Steve and Carol also have a daughter, Alexandra – "Alex" – a graduate of OA and the University of Massachusetts Boston.
“My father had ulcerative colitis when he was young, from the age of 13 through 21,” said Jake. “Colitis and Crohn's are similar. When my dad was 21, the colitis when dormant, and it stayed dormant for 34 years. But on Memorial Day 2010 he was diagnosed with Crohn’s. I had no idea so many people had Crohn’s and colitis – about 1.4 million people in the U.S. I needed to do something.”
On Friday night, at Oakes Ames Hall, from 5:30 to 11, Intestinal Fortitude will run a Texas Holdem Tournament to support the CCFA. The entry fee is $100 per person – and Intestinal Fortitude suggests that it always better to play as a pair. There is a high stakes table available for $1000 per player. will provide a spread of Italian food; there will be a cash bar.
Honorary chair of the tournament is Timmy, a six-year old who lives with Crohn's and recently spent a 59 day stretch in the hospital. Timmy is a close friend of the Marcus family.
The contact for the event is Carol Lang at firstname.lastname@example.org and 781-843-5000 x 119.
Intestinal Fortitude (its Facebook page can be found at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Intestinal-Fortitude/191770674171148?v=info started with two members: Jake and his friend, Jonathan Adams.
“Our first idea for a fundraiser was to hold a road race in Easton,” said Jake, who is a serious road racer, and who was an excellent middle distance runner at OA. Our first actual fundraising effort, though, was an email campaign.”
It was a campaign to which Steve Marcus – a partner with Marcus Errico Emmer & Brooks, a law firm that represents 3500 condominium associations in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire, and which is part of a national referral consortium – enlisted his network.
“It is difficult enough to get diagnosed with Crohn’s when you are in your mid 50s, like myself,” said Steve Marcus. “But it is awful thing for a kid or someone in their 20s to have to deal with. When I was younger, I had the ulcerative colitis, and it was difficult. I was frequently in the hospital, and I had to go to the bathroom 10 to 12 times a day. I was fortunate that, for no good reason, the disease went away for all that time.”
Soon after the email campaign started, letters and checks came in. By the end of the year, Intestinal Fortitude had raised close to $30,000.
Jake reconciled his love for running with the mission of Intestinal Fortitude. He joined up with Team Challenge, a national running organization whose members support the CCFA through recruiting sponsors for their participation in half marathons.
Yet it seems for Jake that running the half marathons wouldn't he enough. He wanted to run a full marathon, all the while raising money for the cause. And he did just that. On March 6, he ran in the B&A Trail Marathon in Maryland – that would be Jake’s first marathon – finishing in second place with a time of 2:49:40.
“I thought I could have gone a bit faster, but I cramped up at mile 20,” said Jake.
Breaking two hours and 50 minutes in your first marathon, at the tender age of 21, portends big things for Jake’s distance running career.
Later in March, Intestinal Fortitude ran a fundraising event at LOCO restaurant in Easton.
“Jim Messinger, the owner of and an Intestinal Fortitude board member, was just great,” said Steve Marcus. “He donated food and the serving staff. We had silent auction and we raffled off items. There were about 125 people at the event, and we raised about $23,000.”
On Saturday, June 4, Jake ran in his first Team Challenge half marathon, the Virginia Wine Country Half Marathon in Loudon County, Virginia. Jake ran as a member of Team New England, a Team Challenge club.
Out of 2000 runners, Jake finished 9th, with at time of 1:21:51, a pace of 6:15 per mile. He also finished first among all 650 Team Challenge runners in the race.
The night prior to the race, at a Team Challenge pasta dinner attended by Team Challenge runners and their friends and families – close to 700 people in all –Jake received a special award as the top Team Challenge fundraiser in the United States.
"It was very cool and a tremendous honor," said Jake. "I received a standing ovation, and I also received a bottle of wine and special race bib number that said 'Top Fundraiser.' I was asked to speak, which I did. I wasn't prepared, so I just thanked people, and rambled on for a bit."
As for the total fundraising effort, two weeks prior to Jake's half marathon in Virginia, his mother ran a yard sale at the Marcus family home in Easton to support the CCFA. It raised $2000.
Intestinal Fortitude continues to raise awareness and money.
There is Friday night's Texas Holdem event. And next month, on July 17, Jake Marcus will be on the Left Coast to run in his second Team Challenge half marathon, the Sonoma to Napa Wine Country Half Marathon (is it just me, or is there a wine country and half marathon theme developing here?).
The organization has a goal of bringing its fundraising total to more than $150,000 by mid summer.
I see no problem with this sum being reached.
Indeed, for sure, this group, with its spirit and focus and energy – and, yes, intestinal fortitude – is just ramping up.