A 5-year-old leads the pack at this year’s Walk to Cure Arthritis

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Everyone’s heard of arthritis, but for the 1 in 4 Americans who suffer from it—a number that includes 300,000 children—the public’s awareness of how the condition affects daily life is still far too limited. To raise awareness and funds, the Arthritis Foundation is hosting its annual Walk to Cure Arthritis this May 21 at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, where participants will walk one or three miles to compete for the most donations toward efforts to raise $35,000.

Makaylah Ledet

“The walk emphasizes the importance of health care, especially in Louisiana, where there is a lack of access to it,” says Kelli Dreiling, executive director for the Louisiana Arthritis Foundation. “There are actually eight states in the United States without any pediatric rheumatologists.”

Without access to care, juvenile cases in particular require travel for children to receive the care they need, which is something that 5-year-old Walk to Cure Arthritis Youth Honoree Makaylah Ledet understands well. As team captain of “The Makaylahnators,” Makaylah will represent those who navigate the effects of Polyarticular Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis in everyday life, dancing and running with her family as she celebrates her current state of medical remission.

 “On a very basic level, it’s critical for people to recognize that children can get arthritis,” Dreiling says. “We too often hear stories about children going to their pediatrician and being misdiagnosed.” 

Dreiling and others hope that this walk acts as more than just a fundraiser, but a way to bring together the community in support of those affected by arthritis–young and old.

“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for people to show support for them and the things they’re going through,” she says.

For more information or to send in a donation, visit events.arthritis.org.