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Natural Awakenings Naples and Fort Myers

Yvette Stafford: How One Person Can Make a Difference

Mar 30, 2021 10:31AM ● By Linda Sechrist

The words, “That’s not possible,” don’t exist in Yvette Stafford’s vocabulary. The founder of Crohn’s Charity Service Foundation (CCSF), Stafford is a shining example of what one committed person can accomplish with a positive attitude and determination. The story of how she helped not only her son, but a whole community, can serve as an inspiration.

Stafford’s son Kyle Drexall was 18 years old in his first year of college when he was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. The inflammatory bowel disease causes inflammation of the digestive tract that can lead to abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, anemia and malnutrition. Sometimes causing life-threatening complications, Crohn’s can be managed, but it’s not curable. Generally, medications such as steroids and immunosuppressants are prescribed to slow the progression of this autoimmune disease.

When Kyle was prescribed Remicade at a cost of $8,000 every eight weeks and an additional $2,300 for the infusion, the situation became more dire. Faced with the mountainous medical costs, Stafford set to work on getting Kyle on disability so she could get help with medical bills. “It was a hard fight,” says Stafford, who created the nonprofit foundation to raise money for her son and many other with Crohn’s. 

During the five years Kyle was on Remicade, the side effects could be debilitating, which is why he began researching online to find an alternative. “He found medical marijuana, which was a good thing, because he was down to 98 pounds, looking like a dead man walking and we were talking burial insurance. When Kyle began to see that he could totally depend upon it, Stafford lent her energy and enthusiasm to medical marijuana cheerleader attorney John Morgan, who supported two proposals to get marijuana legalization on the ballot in 2020. On April 9, Stafford will honor Morgan at the Crohn’s Charity Service Foundation’s Wellness Festival in the Park from noon to 9 p.m. at Riverside Park, in Bonita Springs. 

Stafford made cannabis a headliner for the festival in the park, choosing to showcase many of the dispensaries that are only located in Lee County. “We’ll have CBD booths and educational speakers, and of course lots of fun games and activities for kids. I met the speakers while I was fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with John to get people to vote yes on Amendment 2.

“My son lost five years of his life to Crohn’s. Today he weighs 160 pounds and I get to see him every day. That’s been my motivation, along with feeling the need to help others. We both want to get the word out about Crohn’s, and now our food bank,” says Stafford, whose CCSF food bank ( bus travels around distributing cooked and uncooked food to 2,500 people a month thanks to No Kids Hungry, which donated the money for the bus that called Blueberry. Continuing to look for ways to help her community, Stafford smiles a big grin and quips, “I’m sure I haven’t done all that can be done yet.”

Riverside Park is located at Old US 41 Rd., in Bonita Springs. For more information, call 239-200-7214.