Did you know that nearly 46 million Americans have arthritis? How about the fact that 300,000 children have a form of juvenile arthritis? This year alone arthritis costs our country $128 billion annually; and $81 billion in direct medical costs. Americans with this disease face a significantly increased rate of cardiovascular disease, and die 5 to 10 years earlier than people without arthritis. These are just a few of the facts, but fortunately there is hope.
Hi, my name is Taylor Guerrant. I am currently a sophomore at Stebbins High School. I have been volunteering with the Arthritis Foundation for 6 years, and plan on doing it for many more. Volunteering for the Arthritis Foundation has been one of the greatest experiences I have ever had. It has helped me to learn to be more compassionate and giving. Recently on my trip to Washington D.C., I also got the title of “Advocate”. I think so many teens today feel as though they aren’t being heard, and advocating has definitely made me feel like I have a voice.
In February of this past year, I went to Washington D.C., on behalf of the Arthritis Foundation. While I was in Washington D.C., I attended training sessions on how to communicate with our Members of Congress, and on how to become a better advocate. Also, I talked with other advocates from our state to plan our Capitol Hill visits. Then lastly, we met personally with our Members of Congress and their staff to share personal stories to help them to better understand how arthritis affects people’s everyday lives. Also we talked to them about the importance of them cosponsoring the Arthritis Prevention, Control and Cure Act, which gives hope to the 46 million Americans who have arthritis. It proposes to strengthen arthritis public health initiatives, which would ensure that more people are diagnosed early and avoid pain and permanent disability. It proposes to ensure that our limited federal funding for arthritis research is used in the most strategic manner possible. Also, it authorizes a prevalence study of juvenile arthritis and helps guarantee that there are more pediatric rheumatologists to treat them.
Well by now you might be wondering, “How did you personally get involved with the Arthritis Foundation,” or, “what is your story, and why are you so adamant about spreading the word about Arthritis?” Well, I’ll tell you why right now. My mom was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at the age of 18. Her doctor kind of laughed at her and shrugged it off saying, “You can't have arthritis; you're too young.” Obviously, he was wrong. When I was 9 years old, my mom joined a group for young adults with arthritis called FACT which stands for Friends with Arthritis Coping Together. That is how I and my mom found out about the Jingle Bell Run. I have volunteered ever since then, working the “Complaint Table” with my mom and Annette Beach. I volunteer not only for my mom but for all of the other great people out there that are stricken with this disease. I do it because in the future I see a great change, a cure.
“How can I help? Is there anything I can do if I can’t go?” These are the most common questions. Every year the Ohio River Valley Chapter of the Arthritis Foundation holds two walk/runs in the area, the Jingle Bell Run in the winter and the Arthritis Walk in the spring. These are both nationally held events, which raise awareness and funds to fight arthritis. Corporations, co-workers, friends, families, neighbors, and many others form teams to walk for a cure. I haven’t heard of many church groups forming teams, so I’m excited about Lake Avenue’s interest in forming a team. I think that as a Christian community we should rise up and support the 30% of Ohioans who have this debilitating disease. I know for a fact that the Arthritis Foundation will be ecstatic to see a group of people who are trying to make a difference in our community. For me personally it was a no-brainer to help out the Arthritis Foundation, and my goal is to raise at least $1,000 dollars for them before the time I graduate from high school; as of now I am already a little over 3/4th’s of the way there. Wouldn’t that be great if your church, Lake Avenue, could raise that much?
While I was at the conference I saw people of many different ages. Most people may think it’s an “old people’s disease” but it’s not. As a matter of fact there are more children with juvenile arthritis than there are with childhood diabetes. There were people from age 1 to 85; the fact is anyone can have it from birth to death. The kids that were there were smiling even though they were in pain, but wouldn’t it be great if they were smiling because they weren’t in pain? When you donate $5, $10, or $20, what you are really doing is helping to form a smile on someone’s face. Donations from people like you help the doctors and scientists to work and experiment, which find new medications and will eventually lead to a cure.
I would now like you to meet one of my “little friends” I met in Washington D.C. He is by far one of the cutest kids I have ever met. But before you watch the inspirational, heart-warming story of Little Man Sam, I would like to ask you one last thing. What are you going to do to form a smile on someone’s face today?