Arthritis Walk brings people together

Published 11:07 pm Friday, August 28, 2009

Lucile McFarland of Thorsby is thankful to not have arthritis at age 88. But having worked in a rheumatology clinic office for 17 years, she has seen how arthritis affects people’s lives.

The youngest patient was a 15-month-old girl. Then there was a 14-year-old boy whose knees were so swollen he could hardly walk.

“I know arthritis is no laughing matter, but doctors are telling us that laughing is good for us,” McFarland told a crowd at the Chilton County Arthritis Walk Kickoff Celebration Luncheon on Friday.

She proceeded to tell a few jokes and pulled plenty of laughs from the crowd.

Friday’s luncheon started the annual fundraiser that culminates on Oct. 3 with the Chilton County Arthritis Walk. Meanwhile, teams around the county will try to raise $24,000 toward research and education through the Arthritis Foundation.

According to statistics, hundreds of forms of arthritis and rheumatic diseases affect 46 million people in the U.S. alone. Many of these are children.

Makenzie Johnson of Jemison is one of about 6,000 children in Alabama diagnosed with arthritis. Johnson, a fourth grader at Jemison Elementary School, is this year’s junior honoree for the Arthritis Walk, along with honoree Dian Easterling of Clanton.

Until recently, there was not a pediatric rheumatologist in the state. But thanks to fundraising efforts of Arthritis Walks there are now two on staff at Children’s Hospital in Birmingham.

“We are so fortunate to have this rheumatology clinic,” said Rhonda Johnson, Makenzie’s mother. “To be able to raise that kind of money speaks well of our Alabama Chapter.”

CBS 42 meteorologist David Neal also spoke about his experience with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. He is a statewide spokesperson for the Arthritis Foundation and a longtime supporter of the Walk.

This year’s walk is Saturday, Oct. 3 at 9 a.m. in front of Chilton Medical Center. There will also be events for dogs to emphasize how animals are affected by arthritis.

Each team member is being asked to raise $100 to earn an official Arthritis Walk T-shirt this year.

To start a team, donate, or for more information about the Chilton County Arthritis Walk, call (800) 879-7896 or (205) 979-5700.