Reganne O’Brien was lying in her hospital bed not quite a year ago after having had her colon removed.
She felt very alone.
She knew she was in for a “huge lifestyle change,” but didn’t know all that that would entail.
“It was like, ‘OK, this really was awful,’” the Brookfield woman said. “’I really wish I could turn back time and something would have been there to help me or someone would have been there for me.’”
While she was lacking the support she felt she needed, O’Brien believed she could be the support that someone else would need.
“I grabbed my notebook,” she said. “I started writing down ideas, like, ‘support groups,’ ‘retreats,’ different things that would have helped me.”
Those ideas turned into a non-profit corporation called Glamorous Gutless Girls.
“We provide support and awareness to people with IBD (inflammatory bowel disease), Crohn’s (disease) and colitis,” Hallie Neimi, GGG vice president said at the Strimbu Memorial Fund awards presentation in December. “We’re just really trying to spread awareness and let the girls know that they’re not alone through this. Sometimes, it can be tough, and embarrassing, too.”
The organization holds events, sends out care packages, visits people in hospitals and at home, shares stories through social media and awards scholarships. It also has helped form clubs at Gannon University in Erie, where O’Brien is a sophomore studying business administration; Youngstown State University; and Mercyhurst College in Erie.
The Gannon group, which is named Gutless Guys and Girls to acknowledge the men who have joined, sponsors support groups and hosts speakers and workshops on cooking, nutrition, stress relief and inflammatory bowel disease.
“We welcome in people who aren’t just IBD,” O’Brien said. “We also welcome in people with IBS and other GI issues.”
The Mercy Center for Women in Erie has noticed O’Brien’s efforts, naming her one of 11 “Women Making History.”
“Reganne brings awareness and is driven to help others fight Crohn’s disease,” said Jennie Hagerty, executive director of the Mercy Center, which serves women who are homeless or in need of personal development assistance. “In the last year, Reganne has raised over $17,000 to help others fight this horrible disease. She is the youngest of our recipients to receive this award.”
The Center honored O’Brien and the other women at a banquet March 27.
O’Brien is a member of the Gannon student government and honor society, has a part-time job in the library and is president of Gutless Guys and Girls. She plans to step down as president to allow more time to work on the non-profit corporation and open GGG chapters at more colleges.
Her long –term goals include continuing to serve in the non-profit realm while also finding a way to make a living serving a similar population.
“Right now I’m writing books to help people with ostomies and people with IBD,” O’Brien said. “I’d like to finish my first book by the end of this year. I’d also maybe like to start a business for ostomy clothing. It’s hard to find clothing that doesn’t hug it. A lot of fashion these days for young women is really fitting. It would be really cool to get that business. I definitely want to do something IBD-related, because I really have a connection to it. That’s what I love to do.”
Glamorous Gutless Girls will host “Have Some Tea with the GGG” at 11 a.m. May 6 at Tiffany’s Banquet Center, 601 Bedford Road, Brookfield.
The organization will award scholarships, thank donors and unveil plans for its second year of operation at the tea.
The group will hold a golf scramble at 8 p.m. July 18 at Yankee Run Golf Course, 7610 Warren Sharon Road, Brookfield.
For more information, visit the web site glamorousgutlessgirls.org or the group’s Facebook and Instagram pages. Founder Reganne O’Brien can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The organization is accepting donations and volunteers and has a gofundme campaign.