Girls With Guts: A New Kind of IBD Support Groupby Jackie Zimmerman Patient Advocate
A picture frame sits on my desk and in it are the faces of my best friends. From left to right you'll find: Liz Jordan, Alicia Aliello, myself (Jackie Zimmerman), and Casey Greenwood 4 of the 5 board members for Girls With Guts. Girls With Guts is a small non-profit I founded in 2012 that supports women and children with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and ostomies. Our mission is simple: we don't want anyone to feel alone on this journey.
The four women in that picture all know what life is like living with IBD and ostomies. We're all sans our colons. We've all lived (or are currently living) with ostomies and together we've had some combined 40+ surgeries. I worked hard to assemble a board of intelligent, talented, and passionate badass women. I believe with all of my heart that Girls With Guts is changing lives (ours included) all while serving a community that we love. So let me tell you a little more about what we do.
Girls With Guts started as just a simple website. Our goal has always been to bring women together, to share their stories, and to empower one another. However, once we decided we wanted to have a live event we knew that just being a website wouldn't be enough. In order to do more, we had to be more and that meant becoming a 501(c)3 non-profit. Being a non-profit has enabled us to do all of the programs we had been dreaming about. We have four programs that we have worked really hard to develop.
Our biggest program is our women retreat that we plan to hold annually. We are currently planning our [second retreat to be held in Bandera, Texas, from October 10-13, 2014]. Last year we had 35 women come from all over the U.S. and Canada to hang out together. But it was so much more than that. They left feeling empowered, educated, and with a support system that would drop anything to help. That is what Girls With Guts is all about.
Our Butt Basket program helps make surgery recovery easier. We've taken our combined knowledge of surgery and put together "survival kits" for those who are coming out of ostomy or j-pouch surgery. Our Butt Baskets are filled with products and tips written by patients for patients, everything you'd need for a successful recovery. We also have our ostomy supply redistribution program called POOP (Philanthropic Ostomy Outreach Program), which helps get ostomy supplies to those who cannot afford them.
And finally, we also have our Butt Buddies groups. We found that so many IBD and ostomy support groups had a negative connotation attached to them. We want to change this. We lovingly state that we have "Support groups for people who hate support groups," which just means that we bring a different spin to our Butt Buddies groups. We bring youth, laughter, and positivity.
We have designed Girls With Guts to meet the needs of women and children in our community and we work hard every day to make our programs stronger and better. If you have any questions about Girls With Guts please don't hesitate to contact me directly at Jackie@GirlsWithGuts.org, or check out our Facebook page where we post questions from our community, and you will get real answers from real patients.
Thank you for taking the time to learn about GWG and for supporting us!