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Batavia teen uses his story to fight Crohn's

Batavia resident and Marmion Academy student Ian Duncan, 18, has Crohn’s disease and has helped raise more than $100,000 for Crohn’s research. He has organized a 5K benefit run to take place in Batavia on Saturday. (Sandy Bressner –
Batavia resident and Marmion Academy student Ian Duncan, 18, has Crohn’s disease and has helped raise more than $100,000 for Crohn’s research. He has organized a 5K benefit run to take place in Batavia on Saturday. (Sandy Bressner –

BATAVIA – Ian Duncan remembers when he first started experiencing pain in his abdomen.

“I couldn’t hold food down,” said the 18-year-old Marmion Academy senior. “I was throwing up for a week. I had to go to the hospital. I couldn’t even hold water down the day before I went to the hospital.”

In 2006, Duncan was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, a chronic disorder that causes inflammation of the digestive or gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms include intestinal cramping and fatigue.

But the Batavia resident was determined not to be a victim. And on Saturday, he once again will put on the Fox River 5K to benefit the American Crohn’s Foundation, which funds research and education into the disease.

He started the foundation in 2007. This is the fourth year of the benefit run, which follows the Fox River trail along the Fox River, beginning and ending at the Batavia Government Center.

“My dream is to be able to make a difference,” Duncan said.

“I want to see a cure to Crohn’s disease. That’s originally why I got into fundraising.”

More than 300 people participated in last year’s run, which raised between $12,000 and $13,000.

Those who want to participate in the 2010 Fox River 5K can register online at

The race starts at 8 a.m. Saturday at the Batavia Riverwalk, Houston Street and Island Avenue in downtown Batavia. On race day, the registration fee is $25 for adults and $15 for those 18 and under.

Duncan himself is a runner and was on Marmion’s track team for two years before he had to quit because of his Crohn’s disease.

“The disease forced me to do it,” he said.

Duncan has raised more than $100,000 for Crohn’s research through his own foundation and helping others with their fundraising efforts.

His efforts have made him one of 75 semi-finalists in the national Build-A-Bear Workshop Huggable Heroes program. In June, 10 Huggable Heroes will be selected and will receive $10,000, including a $7,500 educational scholarship.

Build-A-Bear Workshop launched the Huggable Heroes program in 2004 as a way to recognize young people making a difference in their communities. Duncan felt grateful to have received the recognition.

“I don’t see myself as a hero,” Duncan said.

“I just see myself as someone who is doing what they are passionate about. It is amazing when events like this take on a life of their own.”

His mother, Randa Duncan, nominated him.

“It started out as something very small,” she said. “He didn’t like being sick and being a victim. Anybody can make a difference.”

Gastrointestinal health specialist Tarun Mullick is also impressed with Ian Duncan’s efforts. He has worked with Duncan to get his Crohn’s disease under control.

“He is inspiring,” Mullick said.

“He made the best of a difficult situation by bringing awareness to the disease.”

Researchers have not yet identified the cause of Crohn’s disease.

“There is potentially an environmental factor and potentially a genetic factor,” Mullick said. “We think it takes both.”

With the help of the medication Remicade, Duncan has been able to bring his Crohn’s disease under control.

“For the most part, I live pretty normally,” Duncan said.

“I can’t drink milk and I can’t get upset. I start to get it when I am under stress. I have to be careful about how I deal with stress.”

And he hopes other people with Crohn’s disease can learn from his story.

“You can still have a normal life,” Duncan said.

“You need to pursue your dreams, no matter what.”

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