North Central resident Jenna Leland, a sixth-grade student at Christ Church School, looks like a normal and happy 12-year-old girl on the outside. But on the inside, her body is regularly doing battle with itself.

Jenna Leland

Jenna was diagnosed with Chronic Ulcerative Colitis in October 2015, after weeks of struggling with stomach pain and digestive issues. “It started with just a little cold,” her mother, Karen, recalls. Sometimes that’s all it takes to trigger an autoimmune disease that could be lying dormant in the body.

She had a bad flare-up in the fall of 2016, missing six weeks of school and being hospitalized twice. Jenna now has to take several medications regularly and watch her diet closely, avoiding gluten, sugar and “inflammatory” foods. She and her mom attend a local Crohn’s and Colitis support group regularly.

She’s faced it all with a smile and a positive attitude, which recently earned her the 2017 Take Steps Honored Hero Award, from the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA).

Jenna is just one of the local awardees who will be honored—and joined by family and friends—during the Take Steps for Crohn’s and Colitis Walk, set for 8 a.m. Saturday, April 8 at the Phoenix Zoo. Jenna’s team is Jenna’s UC Movers, and to donate to her team you can go to

Take Steps is the CCFA’s family-friendly fundraising and walk event where patients, loved ones, friends, and supporters inspire and connect to fight Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis, and other debilitating digestive diseases. Patients and their families are able to connect with their local IBD community, helping them understand that they are never alone in this fight.

Funds raised help with research and with an annual summer camp for kids, which Jenna was able to attend last year.

For more information about the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America, visit


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