OUR MISSION STATEMENT
To advocate for ostomates and to educate and empower them to realize their full potential.
The Ostomy Awareness Foundation, Inc. provides education, awareness and advocacy to and for ostomates of all diversions, their families, caregivers, medical professionals and others in the ostomy community. Through support networks, speaking engagements, social media and community programs, the foundation helps individuals navigate their ostomy journey while encouraging them to be their best self along the way, as well as advocates for client rights and strives to eliminate misconceptions and stereotypes related to ostomy that exist for ostomates and in the general public.
Ostomy surgery is a traumatic experience physically and emotionally. It can be overwhelming trying to navigate the world of ostomy care post-op. Reasons for this life-saving surgery may be, but are not limited to, cancer, ulcerative colitis (UC), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Crohn’s Disease, birth defects and many other medical conditions. Ostomy surgery allows waste to exit the body through a surgically created diversion from the diseased area to an exterior pouch, which may also be referred to as a bag (to learn more, see “Ostomy Defined”).
The foundation serves clients of all ages and from all stages of illness. This includes pre-op and immediate post-surgery care, as well as those who seek long-term assistance for continuing education and emotional support. The number of ostomates are increasing due to earlier detection and advances in medicine.
Bob Reiling is living his life to the fullest – with an ostomy.
He enjoys recreational activities many might think impossible or risky with an ostomy. He has no limitations waterskiing, playing softball, riding mountain bikes, driving a race car, or riding skateboards or hiking with his kids. Bob believes having an ostomy is not an inconvenience or handicap. It’s a positive way of life that enables him to enjoy everyday activities he otherwise would not have been able to do if he had not made a decision 30 years ago to have a permanent end ileostomy with pan-colectomy to resolve his chronic medical challenges related to Crohn’s Disease. The life-saving surgery forever changed his life, giving him a renewed hope and strengthened his belief that anything is possible.
His knowledge of ostomy care began early on as he navigated the ins and outs of the industry with limited or no supportive services and educational resources and has evolved with the development of new products, continued, countless surgeries and advancement of medication and surgical procedures. In more recent years, he turned his attention to advocacy. He has become involved with support groups both in person (pre-COVID-19) and online for those involved in the ostomy community. His compassion for helping others, vision for empowering fellow ostomates and first-hand knowledge and experience of an ostomate’s journey propelled him to launch the Ostomy Awareness Foundation, Inc.
Before Bob’s surgery at 18, his health condition affected everyone in his circle. Family and friends sat at his bedside at home and in the hospital and feared he may die. He came close several times. He spent the majority of his high school years in and out of the hospital, was examined by numerous doctors and specialists and thought deeply about what his future might be if he continued on an uncertain path that could lead to his death in a matter of time. He was given options: continue on a medication program, with periodic stays at the hospital and no forward movement, with the real possibility he would die of colon cancer before age 30; try a new experimental medication that had a 25 percent chance of causing lymphoma cancer; or have his colon removed to alleviate the problem. The answer was definitive for him – surgery.
Bob stands confident in that milestone decision to this day. In fact, although some individuals have the opportunity to have their ostomy reversed, Bob is in the camp that, even if he had the chance to have a reversal, he would opt out.
OUR VISION IS TO…
provide support that fosters healing and hope to and for ostomates, their families and caregivers.
equip individuals with the tools they need to work through pre-op and post-op emotional, physical and social challenges.
educate ostomates, their families and communities through support networks, speaking engagements, social media, community programs as well as additional programs.
advocate for and support legislation that protects and increases patient rights and furthers patient benefits and resources.
strive to eliminate misconceptions and stereotypes related to having an ostomy.
encourage an ostomate’s positive sense of self and personal empowerment.
believe in building and strengthening relationships among those in the ostomy community to advance communication and knowledge sharing.
champion every ostomate along the journey to be their best self.
ostomates should have the ability and confidence to live any lifestyle they choose, free from ridicule, bullying and the like.
ostomates have the right to have the medical professionals of their choice without the logistical, emotional or financial challenges.
ostomates should have access to products of their choice.
in education regarding resources, products and support are key to an ostomate’s quality of life.
that education must also extend to the general public to eliminate existing misconceptions.
WHO WE ARE
We proudly celebrate the diverse group of individuals who make up our board of directors, our Ostomate Ambassador Program and team of volunteers. They hail from Connecticut and beyond and come from various backgrounds, with experience in health care, technology, corporate business, finance, law and media. Many of them are ostomates or family members of ostomates.
Meet our Board of Directors
Bob Reiling - president
Bob Reiling, a New Milford, Connecticut, native, has been a permanent ostomate for nearly 30 years. His knowledge of ostomy care began at age 18 with limited or no support or educational resources, and has evolved with the development of new products, continued, countless surgeries and advancement of medication and surgical procedures. In more recent years, he has turned his attention to education and advocacy. He is vice president and co-host of the Waterbury Area Ostomy Support Group in Waterbury, Conn.; co-host of the Health Products For You Ostomy Support Group in Brookfield, Conn., that boasts a global audience; a member of the United Ostomy Associations of America (UOAA); a certified visitor through the UOAA for in-home care; a regular contributor to approximately a dozen online support groups; and manages the foundation’s online social media support page. His compassion for helping others, vision for empowering fellow ostomates and first-hand knowledge and experience of an ostomate’s journey propelled him to launch the Ostomy Awareness Foundation, Inc.
Cheryl Bakewell - treasurer
CPA and Partner at Bakewell Mulhare, LLC
Cheryl A. Bakewell, CPA, received her BBA in Accounting from Western Connecticut State University, Ancell Honors Program in 1985. Prior to establishing her own professional practice in 1991, Cheryl was an acting tax manager at KPMG, one of the then “big eight” accounting firms, and an international tax manager at Berol Corporation. She is licensed to practice public accounting by the State of Connecticut and is a member of the Connecticut Society of Certified Public Accountants and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Her knowledge in accounting, taxation and consulting is extensive with an expertise in individual and business taxation. She has two children, Katelyn and Craig. Cheryl resides in New Milford with her husband, Geoff.
Attorney at Moots Pellegrini
Attorney Albanese is a New Milford, Connecticut, native who returned to practice law in the area in 2012 after spending the early years of his career practicing in New York City and Westchester County. He has experience in corporate and small business matters, as well as residential and commercial real estate sales and leasing. He was admitted to practice in Connecticut in 2006 and New York (Appellate Division, Second Department) in 2007. He received his undergraduate education at Fordham University and his law degree, graduating cum laude, from Brooklyn Law School. He is a member of the Litchfield County Bar Association and the Greater Danbury Bar Association and serves on the board of directors of The Pratt Nature Center, Friends of New Milford, and the New Milford Center Cemetery.
R.N., BSN, WON, Danbury Hospital
Christine Kijek is a colorectal nurse at Danbury Hospital, Nuvance Health Medical Practice, General Surgery in Danbury, Connecticut, for 20 years. She has a wealth of knowledge in this field, as well as personal experience. She is an active participant in a local ostomy support group. She has experience working as a coordinator for cancer patients and post-operative care, and specializes in wound and ostomy care. Christine is the recipient of the Nurse Exemplar Award through Danbury Hospital. She lives in Bethel with her husband, Ed. Her children are married and live nearby. She has four grandchildren.
Manager at BGRS
Kristin Grasseler resides in Sherman, Connecticut, with her family. She brings 20 years of corporate relocation management and logistics experience to the organization. She has successfully managed a global team with employees in multiple regions, sensitive global assignments, and supported their families along the way. Kristin previously held a position on the Board of the Greater Danbury Irish Cultural Center and has co-chaired the Greater Danbury Irish Festival.
Dan Keeler - secretary
Dan Keeler, a New Milford, Connecticut, native, is a formally trained commercial photographer who previously owned businesses that focused on digital media, commercial catalog and packaging. The businesses catered to high-end clients, including Black and Decker, Conair Corporation, Woolrich, Dewalt, UnderArmour and the Susan G. Komen Foundation. He has several years’ experience as a senior vice president in residential and commercial lending, a role in that led him to hire and train lending officers and develop marketing strategies, skills he also uses as a consultant. Dan’s expertise in sales, business management and development helped several companies get off the ground in the U.S., Caribbean and Central America, where he lived for several years.
Bob Reiling is NOT a medical doctor or trained medical professional. He has nearly 30 years of experience as an ostomate and has had dozens of surgeries that have given him a wealth of knowledge to share.
This site is by no means meant as a platform to diagnose or treat any disease or illness.
If you have urgent concerns or are in pain, consult your local doctor or call 911 immediately.