More than 2,000 people joined the fight against the nation’s leading cause of disability Sunday at Six Flags Magic Mountain.
“I really want to erase the stigma that arthritis is an old person’s disease,” said Jena Minassian, the Arthritis Foundation’s Adult Honoree for 2012.
Jena suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. She is 27 years old.
In 2011, Minassian founded the Santa Clarita Valley for Arthritis, Lupus, Fibromyalgia Support Group, whose membership now numbers more than 140.
On Sunday she walked alongside friends, support group members and her family – including her 90-year old grandmother, “in her wheelchair and everything” – at the Magic Mountain Arthritis Walk, part of the Arthritis Foundation’s nationwide fundraising event, Let’s Move Together. Their team, Jena’s Fight for a Cure, raised more than $1,200 for the Arthritis Foundation.
Hundreds of other teams from Santa Clarita and Southern California joined them on either a 1-mile or 3-mile route inside the deserted theme park, hours before it opened for business.
Team Jammin’ Jake and his Buddies, 20 people in all, paraded along the designated route in bright orange T-shits in support of 7-year-old Jake Anderson, who was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis when he was 14 months old.
“We’ve been here every year since he was two, supporting him and the Arthritis Foundation,” said Jake’s dad, Nick Anderson.
Taylor McLaughlin, 9, and her mom, Beth, were among the first to complete lap No. 1 around the park.
“We were running. We had to be first,” Beth McLaughlin said.
It was the fourth year Team Taylor walked in the event, Beth said. This year the team raised more than $3,700.
“Taylor was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis at the age of 4. She’s now almost 10,” Beth said. “She takes injections of Methotrexate, a form of chemotherapy, and Humira, a biological drug. Even with these injections, she still has persistent pain in her wrists. She cannot open water bottles. She has difficulty brushing her hair.”
The drugs keep the pain at bay so Taylor can live a semi-normal life, but it’s a “persistent problem,” Beth said.
“More than 50 million people suffer from arthritis. It’s the leading cause of disability in America,” said Amy Daugherty, chief development officer for the Arthritis Foundation.
Daugherty said the organization hopes to raise $3 million during this year’s Let’s Move Together walks in California, Hawaii, Nevada and Arizona to help fund research, education, patient advocacy and camps for kids who suffer from chronic joint pain.
“Physical activity such as walking is crucial to managing joint pain, improving mobility and reducing fatigue often associated with arthritis,” said Manuel Loya, chief executive officer of the Arthritis Foundation’s Pacific Region. “It’s our hope that the Let’s Move Together movement will lead people to take action, both to improve their own lives and the lives of others with arthritis.”