Meet David and Jane Wolfman, Fête Committee Co-Chairs 

Why did you become involved with the New England Chapter of the Foundation?

Jane: Our daughter Julie was diagnosed with Crohn’s at 10 years old. We’d never heard of this disease. Julie probably was sick for about 2 years before we found out what was wrong. Prior to getting answers, the doctors thought she had allergies. We were seeing our little girl have a hard time eating without feeling ill. She also stopped growing and thriving during that period. Julie was the smallest child in her 5th grade class picture. After running a fever for 2 weeks, her pediatrician referred us to a Gastroenterologist who immediately figured it out.  That GI doctor started us on the path of understanding what Crohn’s means and how it can affect people, particularly kids. He recommended we connect with the Foundation and, as they say, the rest is history! I’ve been volunteering for 20 years. 

David: That was a frightening time. As a dad it was my instinct to say, “Give me a problem and I’ll fix it.” But I couldn’t fix my daughter’s Crohn’s. What I could do was to learn from and volunteer for the Foundation to help them obtain the funding they need to improve patient lives and work for a cure. Most important for us was the educational resources for Julie’s school nurse and teachers. We were being introduced to other young families who had children with Crohn’s. Many parents gave us such helpful support in those early days. Julie is now 30 and now, it’s our turn to help. Since we became active with the New England Chapter, it’s been exciting work. Everyone on our Committee has been touched by Crohn’s or colitis in some way.  We all work on behalf of people we love. 

Before discussing your Co-Chair roles, have you done other volunteering for the Chapter? 

Jane: I first began participating in a local Crohn’s & Colitis fundraiser walk to do something constructive. Julie, then 10 and very sick, saw many other people with Crohn’s, wearing T-shirts showing their humor. Take Steps normalized having IBD. At the event, a 16 year old young woman made an inspiring speech about her IBD journey and was rallying people together. Hearing her speak gave me hope that Julie would be okay. Then I started running half marathons in Team Challenge annually. Last year I volunteered at Take Steps. David did the same this year.

How long have you been on the Fête Committee and what prompted you to do so?

Jane: I’ve been on the Fête Committee since 2018. In that first year I almost stopped being on the Committee because I wasn’t quite sure what I could bring to the table. Then it became clear that I could reach out to people and ask for their support, secure exciting event auction items, and invite people in our lives to the Fête to learn more and participate. David and I feel that our “why” is very strong in volunteering. Although we’re not equipped to fix IBD, our “why “certainly drives us to raise the funds needed to help the researchers and doctors find the fix.

David: I’ve been in awe watching Jane give tirelessly to the Foundation. Last year we were asked to Co-Chair the event and were asked again this year. Now, I’m hooked! I find it interesting when reaching out for support how many people either have or know someone with Crohn’s or colitis. There are a lot of us out there affected by IBD and it is all the more reason to keep volunteering. 

Can you describe your roles as Fête Co-Chairs? 

David: We are thrilled to Co-Chair this year’s Fête with Geoff and Tina Schechter. Geoff was honored last year at the Fête. As Co-Chairs, we guide and offer support to our Committee members who are doing much of the heavy lifting. One of our duties is calling and writing donation request letters that we send out to individuals, companies, friends, family, etc. I always say we’re doing this for people we love, which takes the fear factor out of asking for money. There’s something very special about our Committee and the professional staff in Needham. We appreciate everything they do.

Jane: We support the Committee, help raise the money, secure the auction items, and get the people at the event. It’s a fun group which I consider to be like its own community within a community. Our volunteers work hard and motivate one another. 

What exciting things can we expect at this year’s Fête Gala?

David: We will have the “live” auction again with super items. Harry Santa-Olalla was our Auctioneer last year. We’re thrilled to have him back. This guy is simply magic! He helped us to meet our goal last year with energy, enthusiasm, and laughter! 

Jane: We will also be having “live” dancing back this year! An inspiring young person with IBD will be a key speaker and we’ll hear, of course, from our 2022 Honorees: Ashwin Ananthakrishnan, MD, MPH, our Humanitarian of the Year and Jeffrey Mittleman, Partner, Holland & Knight, our Person of the Year.

What have you learned in your volunteer journey? 

Jane: We’ve learned that difficult moments are manageable due to this community. It feels good to support others as well. We can’t fix this for our daughter. But we can continue fighting for her and all IBD patients.

David: For years we had to be “takers” in this community to help Julie and ourselves. Now it’s a privilege to give back. Julie, and patients like her, have hard journeys ahead of them with twists and turns and valleys and peaks. When Julie was 10 she needed us to be vigilant with her care. Now that she is an adult, she can take control of her own care. Jane and I have chosen to support her by volunteering for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation.

Why should someone get involved with Fête or the Foundation?

David: Educate. Motivate. Activate. If we don’t rally our own community to get involved, then who will? The Fête Gala itself is fun to attend! Being involved gives us meaning and purpose.

Jane: Bottom line: The Foundation needs people. We need you. We need this community to activate and participate. We need to let people know we’re here. We must continue to raise funds so we don’t interrupt what’s going to happen to help find a cure. The Doctors say it’s not “if” but “when” we find a cure. On our Committee, we have a friendly competition with regard to fundraising efforts and bringing new people to the table. And we celebrate all successes, big or small. If someone thinks they may feel intimidated working alongside these circles of people — don’t! We’re warm and welcoming to all volunteers.

Having a child with IBD, what advice can you give to other parents? 

David: When Julie was 10 and in so much pain, she couldn’t fully explain it to us. Lean in and embrace the fact that we don’t know what it’s like for these patients. We need to trust them and how they’re feeling. The more we support the Foundation, the more we start to understand IBD better. 

Jane: The greatest thing for Julie was connecting with others her age who have Crohn’s and sharing some of the same struggles and challenges. I highly suggest patients and their families get involved with our New England Chapter because it’s a chance to be with a tribe of people who “get it.” 

Julie recently married and wore a custom wedding gown. Care to share the story?

Jane: Yes! At last year’s Fête Gala, we bid on and won a beautiful Couture dress designed by David Josef. As Julie was looking for her wedding gown, we decided to contact David to see what he could create. Julie actually came up with the concept and design herself which David executed perfectly into the dress of her dreams. And the money we paid for it was generously donated to the Foundation!

For Fête details and tickets, go to: https://www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org/events/fete-crohns-colitis-2. If interested in becoming involved with the Fête Committee, contact: [email protected].