What a weekend! On Friday, May 20th, our arthritis community members from across the country gathered together for a national gathering in Nashville for a weekend of learning, growth, empowerment and community. With a theme of “Grow Together” this year’s event was particularly special. Arthritis Introspective has recently become part of the Arthritis Foundation family, bringing a robust and broad network of local community groups into the Arthritis Foundation’s suite of help and support resources.
We kicked the weekend off with some fun during our Meet & Greet event on Friday night. We got some great time to reconnect with old friends and make some new ones before diving into sessions on Saturday.
Saturday’s sessions featured a keynote from Todd Peck, a NASCAR driver with Peck Motorsports who was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis at the age of 15. “My diagnosis was a breath of fresh air,” said Todd. “Now I know what I’m dealing with. It gave legitimacy to what I was going through.” During his childhood and teenage years, coping with arthritis was something Todd learned to adapt to, but there were times, even in adulthood and during his work as a NASCAR driver, when he had to overcome it. “There were times when having a flare that it was hard to get into the car (you have to go through the window),” Todd said, but his attitude remains one of our Champions of Yes. “We are not going to let arthritis slow us down!”
After inspiring words from Todd, as well as Arthritis Foundation President & CEO, Ann Palmer, and Arthritis Introspective founder, Kevin Purcell who both spoke about new opportunities created through the partnership between the organizations, the day kicked off with learning sessions. Topics from day one ranged from learning more about the role and potential benefits from service dogs, to the importance of patient participation in research, to understanding benefits and drawbacks of joint surgery techniques for osteoarthritis and learning more about evidence-based benefits and techniques for practicing yoga. Our Loved Ones Panel created a place for caregivers to share, vent and discuss tips for caring for loved ones with arthritis. We wrapped up a wonderful first full day with an evening happy hour and fun activities – even some line dancing!
On day two, we explored opportunities to create new support communities, learned more about traveling safely with arthritis, and took time to understand more about why depression and anxiety often stem from conditions like arthritis. Our caregivers connected again in another Loved Ones Panel, this time joined by Miss Tennessee, Hannah Robison, a key advocate for Arthritis Foundation.
Our final farewell slideshow and volunteer awards ceremony brought tears to many an eye. It’s amazing how quickly two and a half days can pass when you are surrounded by those you love and who experience like circumstances. It’s safe to say that we all grew together this past weekend. We can’t wait to see what’s in store for 2016 and beyond.
To learn more about the arthritis community support network available through Arthritis Introspective local groups, visit: http://www.arthritisintrospective.org