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Kate Elizabeth Paden, who suffers from Crohn’s Disease, will speak at the Sunflower Social.

Kate Elizabeth Paden is an adventurous young woman who loves romping with her dog, Mabel, hanging with friends and performing at the Barbara Ellis Studio of Dance.

However, the Pine Creek High School student suffers from Crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that affects the gastrointestinal tract. The disease can be painful and lead to life-threatening complications.

Crohn’s disease is incurable, although therapy can reduce symptoms, bring long-term remission and heal inflammation. For this reason, a Sunflower Social, designed to raise funds to find a cure for the disease will be held from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., Aug. 20 at Tiffany and Rod Coles’ private family estate in Black Forest. Refreshments, live music and a silent auction will be offered.

Paden will share her story with the approximately 100 guests expected to attend. KeP Shining, created to support Kate, is hosting the inaugural event and hopes to raise $10,000 to benefit the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, Rocky Mountain Chapter. More than 80 cents of every dollar raised will go toward fulfilling the foundation’s mission.

The foundation exists to cure Crohn’s disease and ulcerative Colitis, forms of IBD, and improve the quality of life of millions of Americans impacted by these diseases.

Per crohnscolitisfoundation.org, “IBD stands for inflammatory bowel disease, which is an umbrella term used to describe disorders that cause chronic inflammation of your gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The two most common forms of IBD are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.”

The foundation is the leading nonprofit organization focused on both research and patient support for IBD.

“Our goal … equally important, (is) to create a sense of community in Colorado Springs for those impacted by these debilitating diseases,” said Kristine Garofalo, a board member with the Crohns’ & Colitis Foundation, Rocky Mountain Chapter.

Guest speaker at the event is Tolulope Falaiye, MD, a highly respected Children’s Hospital Colorado gastroenterologist. Falaiye serves on the board of trustees for the National Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation and is certified in Pediatric Gastroenterology.

Kate Paden’s organization, KeP, focuses on research fundraising, creating awareness and increasing support for children with diseases. This includes Crohn’s & Colitis, Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (a hereditary connective tissue disorder) and Postural Tachycardia Syndrome (a condition that affects blood flow).

Paden, who was diagnosed at age 15 in March 2021, also suffers from EDS and POTS. According to Garofalo, the vibrant teenager’s condition deeply affected the teen’s family. Garofalo is Kate’s mom.

“Kate’s diagnosis, on top of being in the middle of a pandemic, was heartbreaking. I’ve always had a positive, forward-thinking mindset and felt value in contributing to solution. I wanted to help create awareness and support with broader resource availability in Colorado Springs,” Garofalo said.

Except for Dr. Falaiye, most foundation and medical support is based out of Denver. “Over the past 18 months we have been to Denver over 100 times,” Garofalo said.

When Paden was diagnosed and hospitalized, the Coles offered to prepare meals for her family. “This was new to us, and we weren’t sure how we would change eating habits in our home with respect to Kate, so we graciously declined the offer,” Garofalo said.

However, the desire to get involved led to the need to turn toward hope and fundraise toward a cure.

In many cultures, the sunflower represents admiration, loyalty, positivity and strength. The Sunflower Social was born to support Paden, who works at Ziggi’s Coffee, a multiple drive-thru/coffeehouse, and explores gluten-free restaurants.

“As we got up to our neck in hearing about IBD, providing Kate support and eventually pivoting our energy toward hope, Tiffany (Cole) recognized the opportunity to support Kate and the IBD community in a different way; the Coles offered their home to host the Sunflower Social,” Garofalo said.

Garofalo believes the event will benefit the community by raising awareness of IBD with broader resource availability for Colorado Springs, and offer an opportunity to connect patients and caregivers. She plans to make this an annual event, she said.

“The event will be educational and the community will learn more about IBD demographic trends, treatment options and exciting research on the horizon. Much of Rocky Mountain CCF events are pediatric-focused given children are the fastest population being diagnosed,” Garofalo said.

Of her daughter, Garofalo added that seeing her suffer is “heartbreaking, and I always say ‘Never estimate what a mama will do for her children.’”

Tickets are $75 and can be purchased at one.bidpal.net/sunflowersocial/ticketing.

Tax-deductible donations can be made at bit.ly/3OXFrkW.

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