When the Ride to Alaska was first conceptualized, I wanted to be sure that the money raised ($25,000 goal) went to areas within the Arthritis Foundation that I felt were most important. Chief among these is research into the causes and cures for arthritis, especially in kids. From a general perspective, the following graphic gives a summary of where the dollars go that come into the Arthritis Foundation:
However, my focus is what happens to the dollars that are generated on the Ride to Alaska when they are allocated to research? What are the programs that the Arthritis Foundation is supporting and what are the successes? The Ride to Alaska will generate awareness. The $25,000 goal will support the all-important research that can make a big difference to kids with arthritis.
There are a myriad of research areas, initiatives, grants and studies underway, many funded with over $400 million from the Arthritis Foundation over the years since the Arthritis Foundation’s beginning. In 2011 alone, the organization will fund over $3 million in projects specific to juvenile arthritis research. This is the effort that your dollars from the RIde to Alaska will help support.
Here are some of the juvenile arthritis research projects that are active and promising:
1. Early Detection Through Genetic Mapping – Through this complex research, doctors are identifying genes and pathways in which JA actually impacts the immune response, one of the key factors in certain types of arthritis.
2. Drug Research – Although there is no “cure” for JA as we understand it, the development of drugs to slow the progression of the disease has come a long way. In just the last 20 years, drugs like Enbrel and Actemra have been developed that dramatically impact the progression of the disease. In addition, the availability of drugs that minimize the symptoms of JA has also advanced. Through this complex combination of drugs, many kids can lead a relatively normal life.
3. Secondary Diseases and Impacts – In addition to the RA itself, the disease and its treatment has a number of secondary impacts like lower resistance to infections, difficulty sleeping, challenges related to weight control and obesity, depression and many more. The treatment and impact of these secondary impacts is the subject of numerous research programs.
4. Joint Replacement – Studying joint replacement in people with RA will help patients understand how well the procedure works and what results patients can expect, such as how much swelling and pain will remain after surgery, how they’ll feel and whether cardiovascular problems or risk of infection will complicate the surgery.
How are these new medications making a difference? Take Camp JRA’s campers as an example. When the program began in 1996, the Arthritis Foundation needed to rent 10 electric scooters each summer for the kids to use to get around. Counselor-driven golf carts, scooters, wheelchairs, walkers, canes and crutches were used by the majority of campers so they could get from the activity to activity, such as from the pool to crafts.
Today, Camp JRA has one electric scooter on-site for the week and has quadrupled-in size to 125 campers. The scooter hasn’t been used in years. Yes, kids with JA still have tremendous joint pain, swelling and inflammation that make life hard. But the new classes of medications and advancement in treatment can prevent joint deformity that leads to these mobility issues. And that’s just over the course of a little over a decade.
If you are inspired by the success of the efforts of the arthritis related community as I was, please consider donating to the Journey to Alaska. I have included a link here to the donation site: DONATE HERE Or, click on the Donation link on the page header to download a form.
Only 102 days to departure!