As Glamorous Gutless Girls held its second fundraising “Tea With GGG” on May 5 at Tiffany’s Event Center in Brookfield, Hallie Niemi couldn’t believe how far the nonprofit organization has come.
“We went from Kennedy (Catholic High School) Carnizaar (in Hermitage) passing out papers about Crohn’s and colitis to having our second event here in Brookfield,” said Niemi, who directs GGG with Reganne O’Brien of Brookfield. “It’s just crazy. It’s gone way above what I ever thought.”
O’Brien said GGG is about where she hoped it would be, but can’t take credit for all that it has accomplished. The group, which offers support and awareness for gastrointestinal illnesses such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, functions because of an army of supporters and volunteers, she said.
One of those volunteers is Sandra O’Brien of Brookfield, Reganne O’Brien’s grandmother, who was presented the first GGG Volunteer of the Year Award at the tea.
Sandra O’Brien has collected donations for GGG events and operations; works with the Community Foundation of Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio, which handles GGG’s money and offers organizational assistance; and writes emails and correspondence that Reganne O’Brien and Neimi can’t get to because they have college assignments.
“She sells tickets for fundraisers, she sets them up at the location and then attends them,” said Reganne O’Brien’s aunt, Carole O’Brien, in introducing Sandra O’Brien. “She even donates when she cannot find a donor. In other words, Sandee is the quiet ingredient that makes GGG jell. She is the right hand which the left hand needs to function. The organization would find it difficult to operate without her.”
GGG also presented scholarships to Elizabeth Krinos, a recent graduate of Hubbard High School who plans to study early childhood education and intervention at Youngstown State University; Morgan Bender, who recently graduated from Hickory High School in Hermitage and plans to attend Edinboro University to study health sciences; and Lanie Rogers, a Denison University, Granville, Ohio, student majoring in music and minoring in religion and theology.
Patient of the Year Awards were presented to: Olivia Earhart, a psychology major at Ohio State University and president of OSU’s GGG Club; and Rachel Stubler, a biochemistry major at Gannon University, Erie, and vice president of the GGG Gannon Chapter.
GGG has five college chapters, at YSU, OSU, Kent State University, and Gannon and Mercyhurst Colleges in Erie, and Reganne O’Brien said she hopes Bender and Rogers can help form new ones at the colleges they will attend.
“It keeps growing,” Reganne O’Brien said. “I don’t really know what the future holds for this. I really hope that it keeps growing and it keeps helping people.”
In an effort to continue that growth, GGG has several ideas and events planned for the next year. Organizers have started a diversity initiative to get more minorities and men participating in GGG activities.
“I think it’s important, because it’s not certain types of people that go through this disease,” Reganne O’Brien said. “We are looking for ways to make our programming so people feel comfortable and they can feel like they can talk. Anyone’s welcome in the group, and we want anyone to feel that way.”
GGG has welcomed Thor, a Cavachon – a mixed-breed dog that is part Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and half Bichon Frise – that is being trained as a therapy dog and mascot.
GGG also is planning a Purple Walk and Volleyball Tournament Oct. 12 at Presque Isle State Park in Erie that will raise money and awareness, but also provide “a big, fun, outdoor event, family-friendly, because we don’t really have an event like that right now,” Reganne O’Brien said. Register at glamorousgutlessgirls.org and look for updates on the GGG Facebook page.
See a video of the tea here: https://youtu.be/XmoPXH_7H0