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State Honoree

Gideon Sofer

New Jersey

Gideon Sofer, 18, of Highland Park, N.J., a senior at Highland Park High School, conducted a national campaign to persuade the United States Postal Service to issue an awareness stamp for Crohn’s disease, then created a foundation to educate the public about this devastating intestinal disease and promote research efforts. Gideon said he almost died several times from serious attacks of Crohn’s disease before he decided to undertake his mission. “I didn’t know how many days I had left,” he said, “but as long as I was being given the gift of life, I was going to do everything in my power to conquer this thing.” He realized that the first step was to raise awareness of the disease, so he began campaigning for a Crohn’s stamp. He launched a website to promote the idea, collected 5,000 signatures on a petition, and sought support from government officials. With the help of New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone, he even participated in drafting the congressional legislation necessary to approve the new stamp. Gideon also has delivered motivational lectures at schools and student conferences, and formed a nonprofit foundation that is seeking pharmaceutical research grants to study the disease. “With Crohn’s or any adversity, you can live a life of sorrow feeling helpless,” he said, “or you can choose to turn it into an opportunity and realize you have the power to create change.”