When you’re feeling down, almost nothing feels better than a snuggle with your favorite friend. Nobody knows that better than Juliette Harrison.
At just eleven years old, Juliette was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis (JA), an inflammatory disease that affects nearly 300,000 children in the United States. With the telltale red joints and persistent pain, she was forced to scale back on many of the activities she loves, like horseback riding and running. Understandably, Juliette was sad and in need of a special friend to take with her to all of the doctor’s appointments in her future. But, it couldn’t be just any friend. This friend needed to be like Juliette. She needed to have arthritis, too.
Juliette’s mom went on a search to find a doll or stuffed animal that Juliette wanted. There were animals with glasses or braces. There were even dolls with casts or in wheelchairs. But there wasn’t the one doll Juliette needed. Fortunately, Calesta, Juliette’s mom, found a vendor on Etsy who was willing to custom make a doll for Juliette. The doll, named Love, began accompanying Juliette to every appointment with her pediatric rheumatologist.
After seeing how much comfort Love provided her while fighting arthritis, Juliette decided that she wanted other newly diagnosed pediatric arthritis patients at C.S. Mott’s Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, Mich. to have their own animals to help them through the challenges of having JA. Out of that desire, Arthritis Animals was born.
“When I was diagnosed, I realized how much these children like me needed comfort and joy,” Juliette says. “ Someone to love and help them through the many appointments, tests and pokes. I created the idea of Arthritis Animals, to be given to children upon their diagnosis of JA, to give, comfort, joy, and love.”
Arthritis Animals are small hand-crafted stuffed animals that Juliette, whose mom taught her how to crochet when she was eight, makes herself. She has made dragons, bears, bunnies, lions and many other different animals and characters — all dotted at the joints with red spots, signifying arthritis.
“My goal is to have each child diagnosed at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital be given a special Arthritis Animal to help them throughout their treatments and recovery,” Juliette says.
As it turns out, Juliette’s goal is a lofty one, considering that approximately four children are diagnosed with JA every day at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, where Juliette is a patient. To keep up with the growing demand for Arthritis Animals, Juliette is asking for donations of animals — knitted, crocheted or sewn — as well as donations of knitting supplies.
Juliette also be attending the Arthritis Foundation’s Advocacy Summit this March in Washington, D.C. where she’ll inspire others to be Champions of Yes. She’ll speak face to face with her congressional representative about funding for arthritis research and other important issues, such as addressing the serious shortage of pediatric rheumatologists and the burden of costly arthritis medications.
Learn more about Arthritis Animals.