Congrats to Los Alamitos Support Group for being honored as an outstanding community volunteers!
Team Members: Darrin Pagenkopp & Allison Miller
Nominating Organization: Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America
Honoree Category: Health
Why Nominated: The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America, Orange County (CCFA OC)’s Los Alamitos Support Group and its co-leaders, Allison Miller and Darrin Pagenkopp are some of the most dedicated volunteers for which any organization can ask.
Allison and Darrin have been involved with CCFA since 2008. Over the past 5 years, they have inspired countless volunteers to get involved with the organization.
As co-chairs of CCFA OC’s Mission Committee, as co-leaders of the Los Alamitos Support Group (which meets monthly), as co-captains of their charity walk team, “Poo Crew,” which fundraises throughout the year, and as volunteer leadership board members, they have invested more time, heart and energy in support of the unique needs of IBD (Infammatory Bowel Disease) patients than possibly any other volunteer.
Allison and Darrin were instrumental in CCFA’s outreach through our Power of Two Program. This program connects newly diagnosed patients or those struggling with the demands of the disease (surgery decisions, use of ostomy bags, side effects of aggressive therapies and the uncertainty and expense of extended hospital stays) with Peer Attentive Listeners (or PALs) for one-on-one support. To this day, CCFA is fortunate to meet volunteers who would not have found the support they needed without Allison and Darrin’s willingness to reach out and share their story.
The support group meetings that Darrin and Allison run on a monthly basis at Los Alamitos Medical Center are truly inspirational. They facilitate discussion about weighty topics, manage to get everyone talking, and even inject a little humor into each meeting. The meetings are so cathartic and therapeutic that participants don’t want them to end, and often this leads to post-meeting matzoh ball soup at Katella Deli.
Their team at the Take Steps Walk for Crohn’s & Colitis, “Poo Crew” is 50 members strong and raised over $14,000 last year alone, making them the 2nd highest fundraising team in Orange County. They keep in touch via a private Facebook group, and members often reach out to one another on a daily basis.
Allison shared private details about her struggle with the disease as an Honored Hero at the 2011 Take Steps walk, and in a variety of other very public ways. She spoke in a mini documentary about the loss of her career as a marketing executive and her inability to conceive a child, both side effects of her disease. In the Orange County Register, she was interviewed and shared her personal blogs, http://thechroniclesofcrap.blogspot.com/ and http://www.meetthemillerfamily.com detailing her journey to adopt a child in spite of her disease and its challenges. From this article, CCFA received an overwhelming response from patients and families overjoyed to know that someone understood, that a foundation existed to help them deal with and overcome their own personal pain.
Darrin, an Orange County schools physical education teacher and owner of his own local business, Pagenkopp Construction, has shared his own story on stage at the Take Steps walk and in countless meetings and at education programs. His own struggles dealing with pain medications, loss of control of your physical being – despite how “in shape” you may feel you are otherwise, have been shared in personal and direct ways as well. Darrin delivered blankets to newly diagnosed patients, visited CCFA members in hospitals throughout Orange County, and acted as a Peer Attentive Listener to volunteers who will be forever grateful for the time and affection he gave during some of their lowest moments.
In closing, Darrin Pagenkopp and Allison Miller, as well as their wonderful support group at Los Alamitos Medical Center, continue to inspire and innovate new ways to reach patients, wherever they may be, and to connect CCFA where we are needed most.
Please write a note of congratulations below!