Long Island Honored Heroes

Our local honored heroes understands first-hand how difficult these diseases can be. They want to support patients like themselves because no one should face the challenges and uncertainty of IBD alone. Honored heroes use their story to raise awareness of these diseases, raise funds in support of the Foundation’s mission, and inspire hope to those living with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

Executive Council Chair, Ron Berkowitz 

Ron Berkowitz 2020

Ron Berkowitz, Group Director, SVP at Signature Bank - I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 1996 at the age of 23.  I joined the Long Island Chapter in 1999 after meeting then Executive Director, Edda Ramsdell at the annual chapter luncheon.  Ten years later in 2009 I met with Mitch Carron, then Chapter Board President and decided to get more involved by joining the Board. Since then, I have also held the following roles Executive Vice President of the Board, founding Co-chair of the Take Steps Executive Council and this year the Chair.

I have worked in commercial & retail banking for 25 years, starting with the branches at HSBC, and then with North Fork Bank & TD Bank. I have been with Signature Bank since 2009 as a Group Director of commercial banking. I have engaged each bank I have worked at to support the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation and the Long Island Take Steps Program.

The Executive Council is a group of dedicated individuals, well-connected in their communities and industries, with a passion for supporting the mission of the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. For more than 50 years, the Foundation has been dedicated to finding a cure for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis while improving the lives of patients. We can’t make advances without the involvement of community leaders.

I invite you to join this remarkable network of corporate leaders and help us grow the Take Steps Program through corporate partnerships, sponsorships, and walk teams.

Interested in learning more about this extraordinary network of corporate leaders contact myself or Walk Director, Suzanne Beck at sbeck@crohnscolitisfoundation.org.

click here to join my team or register and create your own team. I look forward to see you at the Road Rally! 


Medical Chair, Dr. Benjamin Sahn

 dr sahn 2021

Dr. Benjamin Sahn is a Pediatric Gastroenterologist at Cohen Children’s Medical Center (CCMC), Northwell Health, and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the Donald & Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra / Northwell. He received his medical degree from SUNY Downstate Medical Center and completed both pediatric residency and pediatric gastroenterology fellowship at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. He is Co-Director of the Pediatric Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center at CCMC, actively involved in both clinical activities and as a co-investigator in several ongoing research studies. In addition, Dr. Sahn also has a faculty appointment at The Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research, where he is the Principle Investigator for a clinical trial evaluating the effect of nerve stimulation on inflammation in children with IBD.  In addition to his research and clinical work, advocacy for patients with IBD is an important aspect of his career.  He is a member of the Long Island Chapter Executive Council who meets throughout the year to discuss fundraising and messaging strategies for The Foundation.  He also is a member of the Long Island Chapter Medical Advisory Committee (CMAC) to work on IBD education development for both medical professionals and patients and their families. 

Dr. Sahn is a committed member of the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation who believes strongly in the Foundation’s mission and the ‘Take Steps’ initiative. He believes participating in the Take Steps events helps build integral relationships between himself, his patients, and the IBD community through shared experiences that cannot be replicated in the clinical office setting. The Take Steps events is crucial to driving the mission of The Foundation forward, as the funds raised go directly back to the IBD community through research, education, and community advocacy opportunities.  It is a great opportunity for medical professionals to see our patients when they are feeling their best and in their natural environment rather than only as ‘patients’ in the office. Additionally, and just as importantly, he has seen many IBD patients and families connect through The Walk events in the spring and fall, creating new friendships that carry forward an optimistic view of the future for those coping with, and managing a chronic disease.

click here to register today and join with my team, the Pediatric IBD Center of Cohen Children's Northwell Health. 


Medical Honoree, Dr. David Schwartzberg

Dr Schwartzberg 2021

My name is David Schwartzberg, and I am a colorectal surgeon specializing in inflammatory bowel disease at Mather Colorectal, Mather Hospital-Northwell Health.  

I am on the Executive Council for the Take Steps Walk Program and sit on the Chapter Medical Advisory Committee for the Long Island Chapter. I did my research at Memorial Sloan Kettering and wanted to pursue a career in treating colorectal cancer, however Dr. Feza Remzi came to NYU Langone when I was a chief surgery resident at NYU and not only taught me the art of IBD surgery and the need for surgical sub-specialization, but more importantly, showed me the positive, often life changing difference we can make to this courageous group of patients. After finishing my fellowship at Cleveland Clinic, I came back to work in the IBD Center at NYU where I focused on complex Crohn’s disease and J-pouch/redo J pouch surgery. I had the opportunity to return to Long Island and start an IBD-practice in collaboration with Dr Ramona Rajapakse, so I left the city to bring my expertise to Long Island.

My wife and I love being able to raise our 3 children in Long Island, and I love being a part of the Long Island Chapter of the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. Not only do I have the privilege to care for IBD patients, but I have the opportunity to collaborate with other IBD specialists on Long Island to better understand Crohn’s & colitis which leads to better patient care.

In addition, I know seeing a surgeon can sometimes be frightening, but I hope each time I meet patients at the Crohn’s & Colitis events, they feel more comfortable with seeing a surgeon who is committed and dedicated to helping patients with IBD return to living their lives again. Meeting with a surgeon does not always mean an operation will be recommended, but at least different options can be discussed, and a plan can be formulated moving forward.

I am so grateful for this opportunity and being honored only makes me want to work harder, not only to treat patients in the present, but find a cure in the future!

click here to register today and join with my team, Mather Memorial Hospital.


Adult Honored Hero, Joanna Hazelton 

Joanna Hazelton 2020

1 out of 100 Americans suffer from IBD. This may appear to be a small percentage until you become a part of that 1%. As you have probably already figured out, I am that 1 in 100. My name is Joanna Hazelton. My journey with Crohn’s Disease began when I was just eight years old. In December of 2001, I was lying on the floor, pressing against my stomach, crying and screaming with pain that no one could take away. After an unexplainable loss of weight, constant stomach pains, and several medical exams, I was finally diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. I say “finally” because after much uncertainty, the doctor was able to find an answer and figure out what exactly was wrong with me. However, little did I know, that such a disease would become a lifelong battle.

A couple of years after my diagnosis, I had an obstruction and needed my first surgery. I had hoped that all the pain and changes in medications would be over. However, remission did not last long. A couple of hospitalizations later, and my biggest challenge with Crohn’s began. On February of 2014, during my senior year in college, I was back in the hospital with abdominal pain. There was no need for surgery. Unexpectedly, a month later, my intestines twisted due to inflammation and scar tissue, causing an obstruction. The surgery was urgent and considering I was currently on corticosteroids; I needed a temporary ileostomy to allow my GI tract to recover.  

Unfortunately, my body did not accept the ileostomy. My output numbers would not slow down despite the medications. As a result, I lost a tremendous amount of weight, weighing less than 100 pounds, and had to take several medications every two hours to try and control the output. Due to the constant output, lack of sleep from an alarm every two hours, and my intestines’ inability to absorb nutrients, the doctors recommended that I not attend my classes for the remainder of the semester. After missing a month of classes and being hospitalized, I was discharged on home care. At that moment, my everyday life changed.

Being twenty-one, in a relationship and a senior in college was not easy with the ileostomy. I could not leave the house for a long period of time because I needed an IV every couple of hours, which made date nights and attending classes impossible. I missed out on hanging out with my friends and enjoying my last year of college. I became depressed and with the help of my parents, my brother and my boyfriend (now husband), I decided to attend some classes. I cannot thank them enough for their support, whether it was helping me with my ileostomy and its output, driving me to school and waiting for my class to be over so that I could take my medications, or simply cheering me up when I was down. I was determined to complete my final semester and fulfill my dream of becoming a lawyer and attending law school. Fortunately, despite the obstacles, I was able to complete my last semester. However, I did not want to stop and put my dreams on hold. With the ileostomy, I decided to study for the LSAT and apply to law school. Despite the high numbers in my ileostomy output, I was able to take the LSAT exam. In May, I had my reversal surgery and was finally able to have my life back.

That summer, I applied to law school and received my admission letter a few months later. I attended law school in the fall and was the happiest I could possibly be. I began to see the light at the end of the tunnel. After my law school graduation, I began to study for the infamous bar exam. I ended up being hospitalized yet again during my studies but did not let it bring me down. Today, I am a corporate attorney at Farrell Fritz. I’m a wife to a loving and supporting husband and am a soon to be mother. I could not be more grateful for my journey.

It was my journey with Crohn’s Disease that brought me to this point. Living with Crohn’s can be tough, but it’s the positive things we take from it that teaches us about ourselves. Because of the ups, my mentality has allowed me to believe that I am capable of battling the severity of such a disease. I realize that everyone’s IBD journey follows a different path. We’re all in different stages in our journeys with IBD. We all have different experiences and stories to tell. Despite that one percent out of one hundred, at the end of the day, we are not alone. Hopefully one day a cure will be found.

click here to register today and join with my team, we've got guts.


Shining Star, Jessica Press

Jessica Press 2021

My name is Jessica Press. I am 13 years old and I am in 8th grade. I am the president of student leaders at my school and the captain of the soccer team. I love playing soccer, learning Spanish, playing the trombone and ukulele, and being with my family and friends. I love trying new things and to have fun with life.

When I was 10 years old, I became very sick. I had lost a lot of weight and was constantly having stomach aches. In the past, doctors told me I had an allergy to milk, but I knew that was not all. I went to my pediatrician and she recommended a GI doctor. This doctor guided me to get some tests and MRI’s done. These all led to my diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease. I began receiving treatments to get my health back to where it should be. I now get treatment every 8 weeks to remain in good health. I have been so inspired by the nurses that treat me at my infusions that want to become a in the future so I can help others.

There are many setbacks with having a diagnosis like Crohn’s Disease. For example, medicine may not always work to its best, leaving you very tired or in pain. I try never to let Crohn’s take over my quality of life. There are positives as well. My entire view of life came into perspective giving me the desire to be kind to everyone because you don’t know what someone is going through. I also found so many inspiring friends through Camp Oasis, a camp for kids with IBD. Throughout my fight I know I will always have my friends and family supporting me. I am so incredibly grateful to have them in my life.

I “Take Steps” for all the people like me who are going through a battle so big, yet invisible. Take Steps raises awareness for Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis and gives hope to the IBD patients that one day we can be cured. By donating to Take Steps, each person with IBD is one step closer to being healthy.

click here to register today and join with my team, Jessica's Crohn's Crushers

Learn More

To learn more about our honored heroes or to nominate an honored hero please contact Suzanne Beck at sbeck@crohnscolitisfoundation.org or (516) 222-5534.


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