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July 1, 2005

Columbia, S.C. – Carolina senior women’s soccer player Kimmy Criss, associate head coach Jamie Smith and assistant Mat Cosgriff recently spent a day working at the CCFA camp in Rutledge Ga. just outside of Atlanta. The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) is a non-profit, volunteer-driven organization dedicated to finding the cure for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. The CCFA has created camps throughout the nation to allow young children with the disease to come together and support each other.

“It was truly amazing,” said Kimmy Criss. “Seeing the faces of the young girls and boys and how happy they were while playing soccer and participating in something active was priceless.”

Crohn’s disease is a chronic (ongoing) disorder that causes inflammation of the digestive or gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Although it can involve any area of the GI tract from the mouth to the anus, it most commonly affects the small intestine and/or colon.

Approximately 90 kids were at the late May-early June camp in Rutledge. It was a special day for the three USC representatives including Criss and Smith, who both have been diagnosed and live with Crohn’s disease. Criss, a three-year letterwinner and captain on this year’s squad, earned the Inspiration Award at the USC Scholar Athlete Banquet in April, presented to the USC student-athlete who has overcome great adversity with perseverance, dedication and determination.

“The camp seemed to be one huge support group that hopefully will make a difference in the lives of the children,” said Criss. “My support group is my family, friends and teammates and having that love and support has truly shaped the way that I live my life.”

All three spent time playing soccer with the kids along with talking about the disease and how to deal with it and live with it every day.

“It was definitely something I wanted to do,” said Smith. “Just to spend time playing soccer with them, and to talk about getting on with our lives, I hope it was beneficial for them. Kimmy is a great role model for those kids to look up to. Not only working towards her college degree here at South Carolina, but playing soccer every day and being a leader on and off the field for our program.”

The disease is named after Dr. Burrill B. Crohn. In 1932, Dr. Crohn and two colleagues, Dr. Leon Ginzburg and Dr. Gordon D. Oppenheimer, published a landmark paper describing the features of what is known today as Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s and a related disease, ulcerative colitis, are the two main disease categories that belong to a larger group of illnesses called inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

“I’ve known Jamie for 10 years and I have seen what he has had to go through,” said Coach Cosgriff. “He asked me if I wanted to help out and go and I was happy to join him and Kimmy.”

Because the symptoms of these two illnesses are so similar, it is sometimes difficult to establish the diagnosis definitively. In fact, approximately 10 percent of colitis cases are unable to be pinpointed as either ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease and are called indeterminate colitis.

“I didn’t know I had it until later in my life and the doctors didn’t know I had it,” said Smith. “It’s important to create as much awareness and help out any way possible.”

As the medical world continues its fight against Crohn’s disease, volunteers and workers across the USA will continue offer support whenever possible for the tremendous people that live with it every day. Camps, like those sponsored by the CCFA, is one positive way to fight back.

“During the camp, I was so excited about seeing the smiles of the children that you know must be suffering in some form on the inside,” said Criss. “Their courage and strength to get up off the stage and run around for a little while, I know has to have made a difference in there day and in some ways, maybe a difference in their life. I look forward to working more with the CCFA camps and the children who attend.”