By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter
Shrewsbury – James Canzano was only 12 years old and in middle school when he came up with the idea to hold a road race to help those afflicted with Crohn’s disease. It was personal. His older sister Annie had recently been diagnosed when she was in the eighth grade. Since then, his younger sister Mary was also diagnosed.
Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), a chronic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract. Men and women are equally susceptible and there can be a genetic component.
Canzano, now 19, will enter his sophomore year at Bridgewater State University in the fall. An avid runner, he ran cross-country at Shrewsbury High School and he is also on Bridgewater State’s cross-country team.
His father, Dana, serves as his inspiration. He has run marathons and participated in a bike race in New York State benefiting the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation (CCFA).
Canzano said that his sister Annie was diagnosed with the more severe form of Crohn’s in 2010 and she missed most of her eighth grade. He decided he could raise money to help fund research. Three years later his sister Mary was diagnosed with a milder form.
Crohn’s disease affects any part of the gastro-intestinal tract. Symptoms vary and include: persistent diarrhea, rectal bleeding, urgent need to move bowels, abdominal cramps and pain, constipation, fever, loss of appetite, weight loss and fatigue.
Both of Canzano’s sisters are now doing well and are stable. Annie is a senior at Bentley University and Mary will enter Wellesley College as a freshman this fall.
Since the race’s inception, Canzano said, “so far we’ve raised $42,000 and we usually have about 200 who race on average.”
This year’s race takes place Saturday, Aug. 25, at 9 a.m. The race is competitive and it has a level of difficulty with a steep hill. Canzano wanted to design a route that none of the other races in Shrewsbury follow.
“The race is a challenge just like Crohn’s,” he said “It’s not meant to be easy.”
Canzano is most appreciative of the support he has received from State Rep. Hannah Kane (R-Shrewsbury), who shares a personal connection to the disease through her daughter.
Additionally, Marathon Sports, Shrewsbury Federal Credit Union, Dean Park Pizza and Flaherty Physical Therapy have supported the race.
Canzano shared that the proceeds from the race go to support the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. Some will be put toward research and some will support the foundation’s summer camps for kids with Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis. Both of his sisters have been campers and Mary is currently a camp counselor.
Participants can pre-register for $20 online and there is a paper registration option. Additionally, walk-ins on the day of the race are welcome for a fee is $25. Visit https://www.kickingbuttforcrohns.org.