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A Decade of Shining a Positive Light on Lifesaving Ostomy Surgery

By Jeanine Gleba, UOAA Advocacy Manager

“Ostomates Unite and Help Place The Ostomy In A Positive Light! Celebrate UOAA’s Ostomy Awareness Day!”  These were the words that were spread when UOAA announced the first National Ostomy Awareness Day on July 25, 2010. A decade later, UOAA continues to sponsor and celebrate this day annually in the United States by raising awareness about this life-saving surgery and increasing national visibility of those living with ostomies. Starting in 2014, and all subsequent years, UOAA has been celebrating Ostomy Awareness Day on the first Saturday of October, which coincides with World Ostomy Day every three years. This year National Ostomy Awareness Day will be held on Saturday, October 3, 2020. 

The idea for an awareness day was originally suggested by Ally Bain, who worked with UOAA as a summer intern in 2010. (Flash forward, this is the same Ally instrumental for the Restroom Access Act (aka Ally’s Law).  The awareness day began as an experiment in social media to see what kind of grassroots support they could get for ostomy recognition. UOAA sent out a request on social media asking all followers to show their allegiance to the cause by changing their online status to the slogan above and make their profile picture UOAAs logo.  The immediate response was so strong that they were also contacted by friends at Talkin’ Bout Guts, to host a 24-hour live podcast in honor of ostomy awareness. Thousands participated that year.

In recent years, UOAA has also named an Ostomy Awareness Day Champion. This year’s champion is Robin Brown, pageant winner Mrs. Washington, who uses her stage platform to raise awareness for ostomy surgery “all in the hopes that it can be a light for someone stumbling in the darkness”.  Her ostomy story and journey from farm girl to the title of Mrs. Washington World America is inspiring. Watch her special video message for Ostomy Awareness Day!

Over the years, celebrations have been centered around several different themes including Bouncing Back into Life, Navigate the Journey Together, Speaking Out Changes Lives and, most recently, Ostomies Are Life-Savers.

To commemorate the 10th anniversary, here are 10 ways you can join the movement to raise ostomy awareness this year:

  1. Help shine a positive light on ostomy surgery and go “live” on your own at 7:00PM EDT on October 3rd with people all across the United States. Hit the “live” button on your personal social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram or TikTok) to shine a light on yourself and tell everyone how your ostomy saved your life or that of a loved one. If you are a medical professional, share how your work helps save lives. 
  2. Participate in our 7th annual Run for Resilience Ostomy 5k. This year our local Ostomy 5k events will be held virtually along with our annual worldwide virtual Run/Walk, so you can walk or run in your favorite place or at home. Visit www.ostomy5k.org to register or donate for one of these events. You can also join UOAA’s “United Advocates Smashing Stigma” team too!
  3. Create a fundraising team through one of our Ostomy 5k events and challenge your family, friends, Affiliated Support Group members, colleagues and coworkers to raise ostomy awareness and funds for a good cause! Have your teammates share the team campaign and see who can get the most donations. Better yet, ask your employer to match any donations raised! 
  4. Make a donation to the “Ostomy Awareness Fund” as a tribute to the 10th anniversary. Donate a minimum of $30 and receive a special bandana with the “Ostomies Are Life-Savers” graphic image.   These bandanas are also a great pet accessory.  Share a photo with UOAA of your pet raising ostomy awareness!
  5. Participate in some of the events we have planned with partners such as the Facebook Live Event that will be co-hosted with Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation on October 3rd. 
  6. Raise awareness and spread the message that ostomies are life-savers using our infographic. We encourage you to share, post or print it wherever possible. 
  7. Our Operation Ostomy – A Life Saver campaign continues to spread the message that we are saving lives one ostomy at a time. Please use our 10th Anniversary Ostomy Awareness Day logo for your profile picture on your social media accounts. Use the hashtags:  #OstomiesAreLifesavers #OstomyDay2020 and tag UOAA on Facebook @uoaainc  Instagram @uoaa_ or Twitter @uoaa. 
  8. Get your Federal, State or Local elected officials to pass a proclamation declaring October 3, 2020 as the 10th anniversary of this special day. Use our sample proclamation or take action here.
  9. Use our sample letter to the editor to share with your local media why ostomies are life-savers.
  10. Aside from Ostomy Awareness Day, October is full of fun fall activities. Carve a pumpkin (or paint) in an ostomy theme. “Shine a light” in your carved pumpkin and raise ostomy awareness in your neighborhood.

For more information and the latest ways to get involved including activities from some of our sponsors visit https://www.ostomy.org/ostomy-awareness-day/.

With your help we will carry on breaking the silence and shining a positive light on what has saved so many lives.