Princess power: Student Sophia Vicari raises money for IBD research

Vicari at the event

Above, Sophia Vicari (with tiara) marches with members of the Princess Promise team at the Philadelphia Take Steps for Crohn’s & Colitis Walk. (Photos courtesy of Sophia Vicari)

Editor’s Note: The following is an account by Sophia Vicari, a senior at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Florham Campus. A communication studies major and member of the University Honors Program, Vicari was diagnosed with a form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) in 2016. After receiving her diagnosis, she founded The Princess Promise, a group for women coping with IBD. In May, the Princess Promise team participated in the Philadelphia Take Steps for Crohn’s & Colitis Walk.

By Sophia Vicari

After months of preparation and building The Princess Promise from the ground up, I almost forgot my tiara for the 2017 Philadelphia Take Steps Walk! But don’t worry -- I ran back in my house to grab it before my Mom and I headed to the walk at Citizen’s Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pa.

I surprised myself with sudden shyness as we approached the volunteers -- after all, I’ve written about my inflamed colon on the Internet, what’s a team of volunteers? Just outside Citizen’s Bank Park, we and the other registration volunteers were briefed on what to do, and we were off. Clad in tiaras and matching Miss Magnolia Pageant shirts, Mom and I sat at the end of the registration tables. Sitting on the end meant we weren’t as busy as the other volunteers, and it being our first year, we were just fine with that.

I met so many supporters of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) community. I met men, women, and young adults with IBD. I met the “Queen” of the “Royal Flushers” team, whose crown was sparkling with little purple jewels around the top. Purple is IBD’s color, much like how breast cancer is identified by pink. I even saw Arielle Golod, a fellow FDU senior. The team names were hysterical -- Walk for the Runs, The Porcelain Pirates, The Irregulars, and more.

Vicari at the event

Above: Sophia Vicari volunteering at the walk’s registration table (left) and with fellow FDU senior Arielle Golod (right).

When it was almost time for the walk to start, Mom and I met with my team, which was composed of family and loved ones. The girls on my team all wore tiaras. We sat in the stadium and listened to the announcement of the honored heroes and other information. They asked all of the patients to stand up, and at first I didn’t want to. It’s not the easiest thing to accept a chronic illness diagnosis, especially at 20 years old. But as I stood, surrounded by the support of my loved ones, and saw others were standing too, it really showed me that I wasn’t alone. Then it was time to walk. We walked the concourse of the stadium twice before getting to walk the warning track of the field. Throughout the walk there were different booths, musicians, and characters. I held my banner proudly, surrounded by my team, and became part of the crowd of people who knew just what I was going through.

I got to be part of the planning committee for this year’s walk, and it was really cool to see how it all came together. Afterwards, my team headed to my house for a celebratory barbeque. It was great to walk as a princess again in my tiara and sash. As Miss Magnolia 2012, I would wear a tiara and I got to use my princess status to represent my beloved hometown. Now, five years later, I get to break out the bling and represent the promise that no matter a woman’s experience with IBD (especially its stinky symptoms) she is still a princess. I could hold my tiara-d head up high knowing my team had raised nearly $2,000 to fight a disease that I frankly didn’t know much about before my body decided to have it (it certainly wasn’t my idea!). I am so grateful for all of the success of the Princess Promise and the ability to have participated in the 2017 Philadelphia Take Steps Walk.