Juvenile Arthritis Conference

Hope Grows Here: Highlights from the 2015 Juvenile Arthritis Conference

That’s a wrap, folks! After four incredible days of educational sessions, networking opportunities, tears, joy and tears of joy, the 2015 Juvenile Arthritis Conference is officially in the books!

The Opening Dinner was truly spectacular, as the room filled with 1,700 parents, kids and caregivers eager to greet old friends and meet new ones.  When Ana Villafañe took the stage, she wowed everybody in the room – her amazing talent and true passion for kids with JA were spellbinding.

The official programming kicked off Friday morning in grand style, with an overview of the new Arthritis Foundation brand and some amazing JA success stories by Ann Palmer, President and CEO of the Arthritis Foundation and Board Chairman, Michael Ortman. Mark Durand’s Optimistic Parenting presentation gave all parents tangible ideas for using positive self-talk to improve parenting effectiveness and create happier lives!       Friday Fun Night provided different activities for all age groups ranging from a glow party to poolside fun!

Saturday  kicked off early with a wonderful opening session recognizing some amazing individuals. Ann Palmer and Michael Ortman presented Awards of Excellence to both youth and adult leaders, along with professional and medical leadership recognition. Saturday’s General Session gave us all an educational introduction to our new research partner, the Childhood Arthritis and Rheumatology Research Alliance (CARRA), and the important role parents can play in research going forward.  More breakouts gave parents, young adults and kids a chance to learn about  research, advocacy and more!

The Young Adult panel gave parents an opportunity to hear from some amazing YA leaders, while the Young Adult group also had a special session in talking about relationships and how to talk about arthritis with family and friends. Later in the evening, the Young Adults took to Downtown Disney and spent the night bowling and hanging out with new friends.

Tree of HopeMeanwhile, the children and teen programs were treated to different activities, including a visit from the Orlando Zoo and NASCAR-themed Pinewood Derby races! They were each given an opportunity to write down their Hopes to add to the Tree of Hope. All weekend long you could hear a constant rumble of laughter coming from the program areas.

On Sunday morning, attendees showed off their Walk to Cure Arthritis and Jingle Bell Run/Walk team shirts while enjoying a light breakfast and visiting exhibits in the main hallway. After dropping their kids and teens off one last time, Moms, Dads and Young Adults each had their own opportunity to share their reflections on the weekend and how their hope grew throughout the conference.

During the closing session, speaker Joy Ross shared her story and challenges with losing her eyesight due to uveitis and helping her own daughters deal with juvenile arthritis and uveitis. Inspiring stories about keeping hope alive and finding everyday Yes moments!

The conference ended with the traditional children and teen parade, along with 2016 Conference Chair Colleen Ryan announcing locations for TWO National Juvenile Arthritis Conferences in 2016!

Yes! Next year the Arthritis Foundation is proud to host two conferences in hopes of providing more families with the opportunity of attending the JA Conference. Save the dates for the location convenient to you: July 14-17, 2016 in San Diego, California and August 11-14, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania!

We want to thank each and every one of you who made this year’s Juvenile Arthritis Conference such a tremendously special event. The connections that were made, the learning that was gained and the general spirit of hope was so special to be a part of.

We lpok forward to doing it TWO times next year!

2015 Juvenile Arthritis Conference Wrap-Up Video

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