DE PERE, Wis. (WFRV) – Having a life-changing disease at a young age may not be common, but a De Pere teen is advocating for kids like him.

Luke Ericksrud was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease when he was just 8 years old. The diagnosis came after he was experiencing frequent stomach aches and a major weight loss. Luke was in and out of hospitals, having several surgeries and procedures.

Luke says, “I don’t really remember, which I’m kind of thankful for because it was weeks in the hospital.”

Luke’s parents, Todd and Katie had not heard much about Crohn’s before their son’s diagnosis.

“Big thing for us was to figure out how we could keep Luke on his growth path. He’s an 8-year-old and he’s basically malnourished,” Todd says.

Now at 15 years old, Luke is on a treatment plan and spends time advocating for himself and others. Every year he, along with other Crohn’s survivors, meet with senators and government officials to advocate for treatment benefits.

“It’s just really nice because I’ve always like advocating for myself and telling my story, but this is just a bigger stage to do it on. It’ll raise awareness not only for Crohn’s and Colitis but anybody that’s going through something you can’t see on the surface,” Luke says.

Luke is also this year’s Green Bay Take Steps honored hero, walking to support the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation.

Luke’s mother talks about how the disease has impacted her son on a social level. She says, “It’s made him grow up a little bit faster. Because of his symptoms, he misses a lot of school. He’s very comfortable talking to his teachers. He’s just a really responsible person.”

Luke’s ability to turn a negative ordeal into a positive one is something his dad admires.

“There are days that are hard, but when I look at Luke, I see strength, I see resilience, and I see determination,” Todd says.

Luke is raising money for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation for the Take Steps walk on Saturday October 7th at 10:30am at Voyageur Park. To support his team, click here.

Local Five’s Katie Amrhein is emceeing the walk next week and is this year’s adult honored hero. To support her team, click here.