top of page

OUR MISSION STATEMENT

To advocate for ostomates, and to educate and empower them to realize their full potential.

ABOUT US

The Ostomy Foundation educates, supports, mentors and empowers ostomates, family members, caregivers and others within the ostomy community.

 

Through support networks, speaking engagements, social media and community programs, we provide tools that encourage a positive ostomy experience.

 

We also advocate for client rights and strive to eliminate misconceptions and stereotypes related to ostomy that exist for ostomates and in the general public.

 

We work with clients of all ages and from all stages of illness. This includes pre-op and immediate post-op care, and 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.

 

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”).

 

OUR HISTORY

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.

WE BELIEVE...

  • 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 headshot 2021.jpg

Bob Reiling, a New Milford, Connecticut, native, has been a permanent ostomate for more than 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 president and host of the Waterbury Area Ostomy Support Group in Waterbury, Conn.; 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.

David Albanese

Attorney at Moots Pellegrini

Albanese-384x480-960w.jpeg

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.  

Christine Kijek

R.N., BSN, WON, Danbury Hospital

Christine Kijek.jpeg

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.

Kristin Grasseler

Manager at BGRS

Maher_Kristin.jpg

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. 

Amy Berkun - secretary

Public Services Librarian, New Milford Public Library

Amy Berkun head shot.jpg

Amy Berkun, a resident of New Milford, Conn., is the Public Services Librarian at New Milford Public Library, having been the Young Adult Services Librarian prior to that.She earned a Master's degree in Library and Information Science and is eager to use her knowledge to help New Milford’s youth. She is interested in creating a space at the library for youth that encourages them to feel welcome, safe, and empowered. Amy also has a background in publishing, having worked as an editor and copy editor at various publishing houses in Manhattan and Long Island. One of her strengths is expressing herself through the written word.  Amy also volunteers for the New Milford Coalition for Awareness and New Beginnings (NMCAN).

Meet our team
Bob Reiling - Executive Director
Bob headshot 2021.jpg

Bob Reiling, a New Milford, Connecticut, native, has been a permanent ostomate for more than 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 president and host of the Waterbury Area Ostomy Support Group in Waterbury, Conn.; 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.

Deborah Rose - Assistant Director & VP of Public Relations

Editor / Writer / Photographer, NewMilfordNow.org

IMG_7900 2.jpg

Deborah Rose is a lifelong writer, photographer, poet and award-winning journalist. She brings with her 30 years of community journalism, as well as customer service and public relations experience. Deborah, a native of New Milford, Connecticut, is editor, writer and photographer for the Town of New Milford’s tourism and community website, www.NewMilfordNow.org, through which she also coordinates and promotes economic- and tourist-based activities and special projects. She was appointed New Milford Poet Laureate in 2022. Deborah is committed to helping those in need, with a particular interest in senior citizens and those facing health challenges, and possesses extensive experience in support group development and facilitation, caregiving, Hospice and end-of-life planning and care. She is involved with several other nonprofits, including the Foundation 4 Orphans, the Sherman Chamber Ensemble and Kent News, Inc., and is a Hospice volunteer. She holds a B.A. and M.A. in English, and minored in psychology. 

Dean Barile, VP of Marketing & Development
CEO, Amore4Wine
headshot_son.png

Dean Barile is an accomplished professional and visionary leader with over 27 years of private sector business experience, and a record of financial performance. Most recently, he co-founded and launched an international wine-on-tap business, Amore4wine, and, prior to that, was President and CEO of Media Advisors Group, a multinational marketing firm. In the past, Dean worked for Smile Train’s founder, the late Charles B. Wang, as lead consultant for NeuLion Inc., working alongside Charles and his wife, Nancy, during the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics and then as a Smile Train consultant, primarily focused on fundraising. In more recent years, Dean became a board member for the non-profit Economic Development Corporation of New Milford, Conn., where he has resided since 1999. He is a dedicated husband, and father of four children, including, Erick, who was born with myelomeningocele, also known as open spina bifida. Apparent at birth, it is a condition where the neural tube along the spine does not close all the way, often resulting in damage to the spinal cord and nerves, and causing neurogenic bowel disorder. His son's health condition led Dean into the world of ostomy and stoma care. Now with more than 14 years of hands-on learning of medical procedures and advancements in medications to ensure bladder and renal health, Dean has joined the Ostomy Foundation as an advocate to help raise awareness of and assist those ostomates and families navigate this overwhelming time in their lives. In his spare time, Dean enjoys reading and writing, and is a self-described “Revolutionary War buff and an admirer of our Founding Fathers.”

The Foundation is proud of its multi-generational collaboration.

Meet our team of junior volunteers
Addison
Volunteer Junior Associate of Communications
Addison IMG_1805 copy.jpg

Addison brings leadership and energy to the Foundation. Her strong interpersonal communication skills and ability to multi-task during time-sensitive settings are especially helpful at our fundraising events. She openly shares the Foundation's mission through educational conversations with others, and brings wit and humor to the table. Addison is a full-time student who works part time, and is a Police Cadet and a summer camp counselor.
 

Eleanor

Volunteer Junior Associate for Development and Advertising

Eleanor headshot.jpg

Eleanor has been involved with the Foundation since its launch in 2020. She brings creativity to the leadership team when it comes to fundraising, social media and merch ideas. Her skills with cutting-age photo- and video-editing apps is an asset to the team. She is active in school and her community. She is a member of her school's Yearbook Club, as well as a Girl Scout, a leader for summer camp and is in training to be a Certified American Red Cross babysitter.

 

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.

bottom of page