Going to overnight camp for the first time is a major milestone in a child’s life — often one that is more difficult for the parents than the child, admits Matt Mooney, a volunteer for the Arthritis Foundation.
“I think sending Katherine to camp was a little harder on me and her mom,” says Matt. “Katherine ran right in to play with her friends.”
Diagnosed with juvenile arthritis (JA) at just two years old, Matt’s daughter Katherine, now six, is attending the Arthritis Foundation’s Camp AcheAway for the first time. Camp AcheAway is an overnight camp in Georgia created specifically for children who are living with JA.
“Camp AcheAway is a great opportunity for Katherine to be with kids who experience some of the same things she does,” says Matt. “She’s had JA for as long as she can remember, and it’s wonderful for her to meet other children like her.”
Camp is just one of the many ways the Mooneys are involved with the Arthritis Foundation. Matt is a member of the Arthritis Foundation’s National Board, chair of the Board Development Committee, chair of the Southeast Region Board, member of Georgia Leadership Council and chair of the Jingle Bell Run/Walk Atlanta. His most important role, though, is that of a JA parent.
“When Katherine was diagnosed, we did what most scared parents would do,” says Matt. “We dove in head first and got educated. We got the JA Power Pack, and from then on, the Arthritis Foundation was a huge resource of education and support for us. The Arthritis Foundation has helped us develop a community of JA families we can connect with and learn from.”
Soon after Katherine’s diagnosis, the Mooneys became involved in the Jingle Bell Run, raising more than $15,000 in their first year. Now, more than four years after Katherine’s diagnosis, the Mooney’s continue to give — both of their time and financially. They hope their family’s gifts can help spread the word about the prevalence and toll of arthritis.
“For us, our work starts with awareness and helping to educate the community as a whole so that we can elevate the conversation,” says Matt. “Arthritis goes well beyond my parents or grandparents just having joint problems. Arthritis can be a dangerous disease that has serious, lifelong consequences for children and adults.”
Beyond awareness, the reason Matt’s family gives is simple: to find a cure.
“We’re pulling together as a community to drive innovation around new drugs and therapies,” says Matt. “Giving to the Arthritis Foundation helps us move toward a cure.”