Executive Director, Cassie and Friends
Arthritis is such a common condition that, if you don’t suffer from it yourself, you almost certainly know someone who does. But, when we think of a typical person with arthritis, most of us picture someone elderly. Unfortunately, the truth is that arthritis doesn’t discriminate. It can strike anyone at any age, including the very young. In fact, an estimated 24,000 Canadian children (3 in 1000) are living with juvenile arthritis and other rheumatic diseases. It’s more common than better-known diseases like cystic fibrosis and is similar in prevalence to juvenile diabetes.
A sick child is a child denied childhood
For these children, the disease can cause great pain and present a real challenge to living the sort of joyful and active life that we associate with childhood. “It’s not just aches and pains,” says Jennifer Wilson, Executive Director of Cassie and Friends, Canada’s only charity dedicated entirely to juvenile arthritis and similar conditions. “A lot of these kids are on aggressive and serious treatments which can have a burden on the family that’s frequently underestimated.”
Easing this burden is at the core of the important work that Cassie and Friends does. “We’re 100 percent centered on kids and helping them and their families live their healthiest lives possible,” says Wilson. “Any way that we can support kids’ families, even just by covering unexpected expenses or reducing stress in the smallest way, is worth it. Those small costs, both financial and emotional, really add up.”
Every dollar makes a difference
To continue this work requires funding. Since being founded in 2007, Cassie and Friends has committed over $2.5 million toward research, advocacy, equipment, education, and support programs. In 2020, they’ll be launching a new online support network to connect affected families across Canada.
The Cassie and Friends model embraces the idea that fundraising and community-building go hand in hand. “Our biggest fundraiser has been participating in the Scotiabank Charity Challenge,” says Wilson. “We have teams across Canada, including in Toronto, Hamilton, Calgary, and Vancouver. This will be our third year entering a team. It’s a very family-friendly 5-kilometre run or walk event that provides kids and families with the chance to meet others in the community while raising support for some amazing programs like our Family Day.”