When a child or teen is diagnosed with juvenile arthritis (JA), they might feel alone or not able to do activities they’ve done easily in the past. Art for Arthritis, an Arthritis Foundation fundraising event being held in three cities in September, gives children and teens diagnosed with JA or a rheumatic disease a feeling of togetherness and creative expression. Through these life-changing events, kids are paired with a professional artist and together, they turn a potentially challenging and painful situation into beautiful and inspiring pieces of art.
After Jillian Reid was diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) in 2013, her father, Joseph, felt the need to circle the wagons. He trusted their pediatric rheumatologist and wanted to keep their family close during the traumatic time. Jillian’s mom, Kimberly, wanted to become involved in the Arthritis Foundation community. She found a flyer about Art for Arthritis Kansas City while visiting their pediatric rheumatologist. The idea that Jillian could work with a professional artist and enjoy a creative outlet piqued their interest and they signed Jillian up for the event.
“The first year, seeing the collaboration and process while working with her artist was great,” says Joseph. “It altered my previous mindset of not wanting to be involved after I saw the change in Jillian. We realized how much she needed to meet the other kids with arthritis and have this experience.”
Now, the Reid family is very involved. Joseph serves on the Kansas City Leadership Board and spoke at the 2016 JA Conference in Philadelphia. Jillian, now age 9 (she turns 10 this week), was the 2015 Walk to Cure Arthritis Kansas City Youth Honoree and is participating in Art for Arthritis for a second time this fall.
Jillian’s 2016 mentor artist first met with her while she was getting an infusion at Children’s Mercy. Her Mentor Artist, Scribe, is also the artist-in-residence at Children’s Mercy. “That first day, Scribe drew her a cheetah,” says Joseph. “It’s an experience she will treasure always, working with the artists. It brings us joy to see way she glows when mixing paints or putting on a mask to spray paint.”
Taylor Van Emmerik was diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis when he was 9. Now, at 13, he will also be participating in Art for Arthritis in Sioux Falls for a second time. Taylor’s favorite part of Art for Arthritis was in 2015 when someone bought his painting and gave it back to him.
“Art for Arthritis is important to us because of the fundraising that happens and the awareness that it brings,” says Taylor’s mom, Jodi. “It’s amazing how as you’re sitting there visiting, people come for different reasons and the event helps them realize how important it is to support kids with JA and their families.”
In the three years since Taylor’s diagnosis, he has gone to Camp Cambria, a Minnesota JA Camp. He is always trying to recruit other kids in Sioux Falls to come to camp, it’s his favorite part of the summer. Taylor also enjoys the release Art for Arthritis brings. “I feel calm and relaxed when creating art,” says Taylor. “It feels like I can let everything out when I’m working with my artist.”
Taylor and Jillian both agree that participating in Art for Arthritis, whether it is in Sioux Falls or Kansas City, helps them feel like they aren’t alone. “It’s important to me because when all the kids do art and we auction them off, they get money for arthritis to find a cure,” says Jillian. “It’s fun and I feel really good when I get to do it.” Creating pieces of art gives them and other participants an outlet for expression and helps support the JA fight.
- Art for Arthritis Kansas City – September 9, 2016
- Art for Arthritis Wichita – September 24, 2016
- Art for Arthritis Sioux Falls – September 30, 2016