Each year as the leaves begin to fall and the weather gets a few degrees cooler, Peyton Holstein of Lake Oswego, Oregon, along with her older brother, Tobias and four of their cousins, begin researching both local and national charity organizations. While it is easy to assume this is for a school assignment, it’s not. Each cousin is readying their pitch for a unique family Thanksgiving tradition.
Approximately eight years ago, Peyton and Tobias’ great uncle Ron began donating to different charities in the six cousins’ names for Christmas. When the kids were younger, he chose a charity and presented each child with the donation made in their name along with an explanation of how their charitable gift will help the organization. One year it was a donation of goats to a village in Africa that would help provide the village with milk and fertilizer for crops and gardens. Another year after the earthquake in Haiti, it was a gift of water and rice to fulfill the basic needs of a devastated community.
As the kids grew older, Uncle Ron asked each of them to find their own cause and research the organization – from an organization’s mission to charity rating, how much per dollar is invested to how they intend to use the donation, and make their pitch at the family Thanksgiving get together. The six cousins, ages 10-24 years old, listen to one another, embark on a discussion, make ballots and vote between themselves. The Arthritis Foundation was the overwhelming choice for this year’s donation!
Peyton chose the Arthritis Foundation as her charity at this year’s festivities. And while she shared her research, Peyton also provided a unique perspective – her own – as she was diagnosed with persistent uveitis at nine years old, then juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) less than a year later. Peyton was able to articulate what it is like being a patient – what services she receives, access to care and how each are important and benefit her well-being. She talked about her experience of going to Camp JAM and personal struggles with the disease – much of which had never been shared before.
“This is something very special for our family and such a gift that my uncle is able to give the kids each year. It teaches them valuable life skills, in addition to learning about philanthropy and charitable giving, “says Allison, Peyton and Tobias’ mom. “It is something that brings our family together to educate one another on different issues and needs in our community and beyond.”
When Peyton was first diagnosed with persistent uveitis, she saw a number of specialists throughout the pacific northwest area but never showed signs of JIA through any of the tests that were done. About a year later, Peyton woke up one morning screaming in pain, with her knee completely swollen. After a multitude of tests and blood work, Peyton received a diagnosis of JIA. Now 15, Peyton is active with an Arthritis Foundation partner, the Childhood Arthritis and Rheumatology Research Alliance (CARRA) as part of the CARRA Registry and is also heavily involved in JIA research activities.
In living with daily pain and not being able to participate in everything she used to, Peyton often found herself feeling excluded and in a dark place. But through her depression, she discovered music which, as Allison says, “put her head squarely back on her shoulders”. Music provided a much-needed outlet for her in dealing with all of the emotions that come with having a chronic disease. Peyton writes and performs her original songs under her performing name Ash, and spent the last year in Los Angeles, California, to record her first album! The Ash Music Project was recently released on iTunes, Amazon and Spotify.
A huge thank you to Peyton for her support of JIA research, as well as Tobias and their cousins for choosing the Arthritis Foundation as this year’s recipient of their family’s donation. We are incredibly grateful to be a part of such a thoughtful gift this holiday season!
You can also get in the spirit and donate! More than 300,000 kids and teens in the U.S. struggle with arthritis, and your support helps us fund research and provide valuable tools and patient support programs that allow us champion the fight against arthritis. Every ONE, Every DOLLAR makes a difference. Donate today.