Over the weekend, nearly 1,000 kids, teens, young adults and their families made their way to Houston, Texas, to take part in the first of two National Juvenile Arthritis Conferences in 2017. For the second year in a row, the Arthritis Foundation is hosting two JA Conference locations to serve more kids, families and young adults across the country, while also welcoming “home” our returning veteran families.
“Every kid and family who deals with this disease every day shows so much strength and conviction,” said Katy Carter, the 2017 JA Conference Chair. “We’re warriors through thick and thin, celebrating our victories, boldly and bravely battling whatever gets in our way.”
“The JA Conference is where my family is able to reunite with our JA Family and can take a break from some of the stress we often experience.” Katy continues, “I hope that every single attendee here this weekend gets the same opportunity to relax and find comfort with peers that understand – that get it.”
For about half of Houston’s conference attendees, this year was their first time experiencing everything the four-day conference had to offer. Kids and teens were treated to their own specialized programming including activities, educational sessions and play time on their own “warrior” course. At the same time, parents took part in breakout sessions throughout the day – from disease-specific sessions hosted by top health care experts to breakouts discussing educational rights in schools and transitioning from adolescent to adult medicine.
Young adults ages 18-25 also participated in their own program throughout the weekend, covering topics such as mental health and wellness, relationships and patient engagement strategies. Young adults were also able to partake in yoga sessions and had their own “night in” to hang out and network amongst their group.
On Sunday morning, attendees showed off their Walk to Cure Arthritis and Jingle Bell Run team shirts while enjoying breakfast and visiting fundraising exhibits. After dropping their kids and teens off one last time, Moms, Dads and Young Adults each had their own opportunity to share their reflections on the weekend.
The closing session featured keynote speaker, Adam Vigil, of Anaheim, California, who bravely told his family’s story of becoming a JA Warrior Family. Adam is currently a member of the Orange County/Inland Empire Local Leadership Board in southern California and has led the Dad’s networking and breakout sessions at the JA Conference for the past few years.
In a few weeks, the Arthritis Foundation will open the second JA Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana from August 10-13, 2017. We are excited and looking forward to connecting and reconnecting with new and returning families and friends.
A limited number of spaces are still available for JA Conference Indianapolis! If you are interested in joining us in Indy, please contact Katie Bitner at firstname.lastname@example.org.