More than 250 volunteers provide support and connections as forum moderators and support group facilitators.
Friends and family can lend a sympathetic ear and shoulder to lean on when you’re having a hard time. But there’s nothing like having someone to turn to who has faced the same kinds of challenges and really gets what you’re going through. That’s especially true when you’re dealing with chronic pain and the hardships that come with living with arthritis.
That’s why the moderators of our Live Yes! Online Community forums and facilitators of our Live Yes! Connect Groups are so essential. More than 250 people give freely of their valuable time and energy to volunteer in these roles.
Each facilitator and moderator has experience with arthritis — as a patient living with arthritis, partner or spouse of someone living with arthritis, parent or guardian of a child with arthritis or healthcare provider. They bring people in the arthritis community together to share their stories, experiences, problems and find solutions.
“I’m just so grateful for them — that’s the God’s honest truth. Grateful for each and every one of them, for who they are and how they contribute to the foundation as people who, themselves, are living with chronic conditions or their kiddos have chronic conditions,” says Haydee Sedlmeier, the Arthritis Foundation’s Director of Online & Community Connections, who is also a patient. “They bring their talents, ingenuity, passion and hearts to connecting and empowering the arthritis community so that no one is on this journey alone. We couldn’t do it without each and every one of these awesome individuals!”
The Live Yes! Online Community forums have discussion topics ranging from thumb surgery for osteoarthritis to raising a child with systemic juvenile arthritis to coronavirus hot topics. Each has an experienced volunteer to guide participants and moderate the discussions.
They check in regularly so participants get responses to their posts, sharing personal stories and information, referring people to helpful resources and encouraging productive, friendly discussions. They moderate disease-specific discussions and real-talk topic discussions. The Online Community hosts “Ask the Professionals Q&A,” a new interactive video series featuring leading experts. In coming months they will provide answers to participants’ questions on topics including “ask the pharmacist,” “pain management,” “mental health” and “intimacy.”
Live Yes! Connect Group facilitators host support groups — virtually until it’s safe to meet in person again. Whether someone has recently been diagnosed or has been living with arthritis for years and has just discovered the Arthritis Foundation community, a Connect Group facilitator can guide him or her to a Connect group for encouragement, information and resources that can make living with arthritis easier.
These volunteer facilitators take the lead in forming Connect Groups and holding regular meetings. When the coronavirus spread through the country last year, they quickly pivoted to virtual meetings to keep the groups intact and active.
Facilitators foster a positive, supportive atmosphere where everyone can participate and be heard, and they arrange fun and informative presentations and activities, like cooking demonstrations, exercise sessions or expert speakers on a range of topics.
While these selfless moderator and facilitator volunteers are fundamental to our ability to serve the arthritis community, many of them find that they benefit almost as much as they give! Here’s what a few of them have said:
- I enjoy volunteering as a Live Yes! Connect Group Facilitator because it brings me joy to help others with arthritis. I am so inspired to learn and grow from others who are on this journey. The people, the passion, the resources, expert speakers and relevant information about real issues we face daily are why I do this. Being a facilitator has given me an opportunity to meet some amazing people along the way that have become lifelong friends and family. —Tiffany Crawford, Oklahoma City Connect Group
- I remember when my 2-year-old was first diagnosed how important it was to be able to talk to someone who was going through the same thing. It set my mind at ease and taught me how to talk with the schools, doctors and family. If I can empower one person to feel more educated to advocate for their child, that’s my goal. As a moderator, the best way to help is to listen and show compassion for possibly their most difficult situation ever. I have learned to be more compassionate. Everyone has an issue, so we make the best with what we have. —Tiffany Coffman, Denver Connect Group and moderator
- Volunteering as a moderator in the Live Yes Online Community keeps me engaged in a community that has provided me with support, information and friendship. As a moderator, I can extend all of those good things to others, and I spend less time in my own head with thoughts of “I must be the only one in the whole wide world who feels like this.” Supporting and encouraging others and hearing their stories has become more important than focusing on me! —Mary Nathan
The volunteers who have stepped up to be facilitators and moderators are the core and strength of our arthritis community. They change lives for the better every day. We thank and honor them for their dedication to people living with arthritis and commitment to helping them cope with their challenges and live fully.
Join a Connect Group or the Online Community at arthritis.org/liveyes. And if you would like to become a volunteer moderator in our Online Community or start a Connect Group, go to Volunteer with us to learn more and sign up.