Determined High School Student and Digestive Disease Patient Lands Prestigious Award for Service to Awareness Building and Fundraising for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America

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Joseph Melenick, 17, of Bay Village, Ohio, has gone above and beyond to raise much-needed awareness of Crohn’s and a similar disease called ulcerative colitis, and nearly $50,000 for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America’s research, education, and support initiatives.

Since his diagnosis five years ago at age 12 with Crohn’s disease, a chronic and often debilitating digestive disease, Joseph Melenick, 17, of Bay Village, Ohio, has gone above and beyond to raise much-needed awareness of Crohn’s and a similar disease called ulcerative colitis, and nearly $50,000 for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America’s research, education, and support initiatives.

“When I was diagnosed with Crohn's, I did not just want to accept that there was not a cure," said Melenick. "I decided that someone needed to do something to raise money for research, and that it could be me. I wanted to show everyone that one person and a good idea can educate people, raise money for a good cause, and help others feel like they are not alone."

As a result of his accomplishments, Melenick was selected as one of Ohio’s top two youth volunteers by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. A nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism, the program will send him on an all-expense-paid trip in early May to Washington, D.C., where Melenick will join the top two honorees from each of the other states and the District of Columbia for several days of national recognition events and the opportunity to be named America’s top youth volunteer.

At the time of his diagnosis, Melenick did not know anyone else suffering from Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis, despite the fact that over 1.4 million Americans including 150,000 children under 18 live with these diseases. Shortly after being diagnosed he decided to set out to teach his fellow classmates about the disease by hosting a bowling party in honor of his birthday, which was attended by 100 of his classmates. Instead of receiving gifts, Melenick asked attendees to donate to the CCFA, and raised $4,700 for the cause. Each year from 2006 through 2009 he continued to host benefit bowling birthday parties and raised $33,000 in total for the Foundation.

“The kids didn’t understand what Crohn’s was when Joe was first diagnosed – which is another reason he held the fundraiser – to help educate them,” says Nancy Melenick, Joseph’s mom. “Each year, he added something new – like display boards that had pictures of kids their age with stories about what Crohn’s or colitis had put them through. It was the best way for them to understand – and they did. They have been very supportive of all of Joe’s efforts – with their attendance at this and other events he held.“

Most recently, in 2010, Melenick inspired others in his community to support the cause by participating in the Foundation’s Take Steps Walk program and raising $16,800 for the organization. A senior in high school, Melenick is a role model not only for his fellow classmates but for the Crohn’s and colitis community that constantly strives to make their voices heard in the effort to educate the public about the ups-and-downs that patients constantly deal with and the need for more research to find better therapies and ultimately a cure.

About Crohn's Disease & Ulcerative Colitis
Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are painful, medically incurable illnesses that attack the digestive system. Crohn's disease may attack anywhere from the mouth to the anus, while ulcerative colitis inflames only the large intestine (colon). Symptoms may include abdominal pain, persistent diarrhea, rectal bleeding, fever and weight loss. Many patients require hospitalization and surgery. These illnesses can cause severe complications, including colon cancer in patients with long-term disease. Some 1.4 million American adults and children suffer from Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, with as many as 150,000 under the age of 18. Most people develop the diseases between the ages of 15 and 35.

About the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation
The Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America's mission is to cure Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, and to improve the quality of life of children and adults affected by these diseases. The Foundation ranks third among leading health non-profits in the percentage of expense devoted to research toward a cure, with more than 81 cents of every dollar the Foundation spends goes to mission-critical programs. The Foundation consistently meets the standards of organizations that monitor charities, including the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance (give.org) and the American Institute of Philanthropy (charitywatch.org). For more information, contact the Foundation at 800-932-2423 or visit http://www.ccfa.org. Join CCFA on Facebook at http://apps.facebook.com/supportccfa/and follow CCFA on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ccfa.

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Ariella Levine
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