Every day we come across kids and their families who are stronger than arthritis. We hear about their accomplishments, whether it is smiling through soreness, or receiving the game ball from a well-pitched baseball game. Earlier this year we came across a photo of two bright eyed, smiling faces enjoying their time together at a previous JA Conference.
Not many 13 year olds can say they have friends across the country, but distance is nothing to Delaney Kuhns and Rhiannon Carter. Delaney and her mom, Kate, of Altoona, Iowa, have been attending the JA Conference since 2009 when Delaney was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis at the age of six. Rhiannon and her mom, Katy, of Los Angeles, California, have been attending the JA Conference since 2010.
As veterans of the conference, Kate says a top takeaway is getting to take part in an amazing experience created specifically for JA families. “The activities, speakers, food and overall conference is something that just fuels us for the year. It’s like coming home to our JA family – something we all need to continue on our JA journey”.
Katy goes on to say, “The JA Conference has been an empowering experience for both of our daughters. Our younger daughter, Rhiannon (who has JA) has been able to find her voice and share her story with others through the experiences she has had at the conference. She has become a strong young woman who can advocate for herself. Our older daughter has also had a life-changing experience through the conference. She has learned so much about her sister and others with this disease. She has a better understanding so she can help her sister through the difficult times. She has also made lifelong friendships of her own.”
When asked about these friendships, Rhiannon says, “It means a lot to me to have friends like Delaney because you can connect with them and they understand what you’re going through. And you can hang out with them without having to explain your condition because they already understand it. It almost makes the bad things go away. I’m so lucky to have all of the friends I have met through the conference.”
Delaney adds, “My JA friends get it. The kids at conference that I have met throughout the years, we have grown up together and each year we have the opportunity to meet new friends. It’s exciting to see my friends and to meet new ones – because we are all in this together.”
In one week, Rhiannon, Katy, Delaney and Kate will descend upon the desert in Phoenix for the 2016 JA Conference West on July 14 – 17, 2016. Follow us throughout the long weekend and tell us how you and your family are #StrongerThanJA!