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Foot soldiers for a cause

Arthritis Walk held at Fairgrounds Park raises money for disease

Arthritis Walk held at Fairgrounds Park raises money for disease

May 20, 2007|By MARIE GILBERT

This wasn't just a walk in the park. It was about giving a little sole to a good cause.

An Arthritis Walk, sponsored by the Western Maryland Branch of the Arthritis Foundation, was held Saturday at Fairgrounds Park.

About 100 people turned out for the event, which was aimed at raising awareness, as well as funds, for arthritis research and programs in Maryland.

"This has been a national event for several years and is usually held in May, which is National Arthritis Month," said Bonnie Hayman, executive director of the area organization. "But this is the first time it has been held in Hagerstown."

Through sponsorships and pledges, Hayman was hopeful the walk would raise about $3,000.

"This is our first year, and we're very pleased with the turnout," she said. "Hopefully, this is something we can build on."

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According to Hayman, arthritis is the leading cause of disability among adult Americans. In Maryland, more than 1.1 million individuals have doctor-diagnosed arthritis. In Western Maryland, about 192,000 people suffer from the medical condition.

Cindy Lyons of Smithsburg is among those who have been diagnosed with arthritis.

"My mom had arthritis and last fall, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis," she said. "We have a family history of this disease. We can't figure out why, but it is what it is."

On Saturday, she and other family members and friends formed a team called "Lyons Pride" and participated in the local walk. Through pledges, the team had raised $110.

"I thought it was important to be a part of this," she said. "Hopefully, one day they'll find a cure."

Elizabeth Bauer, board president of the Western Maryland Branch of the Arthritis Foundation, said she was diagnosed with arthritis when she was 15 years old.

"I'm now 52, so I've lived a lot of years with rheumatoid and osteoarthritis," she said.

Bauer said the disease is prominent in her family, spanning several generations.

"That's why I'm very passionate about supporting this cause," she said "I walk with devices, and I'm limited in what I can do, but I stay as active as I can. I walk. I kayak. I won't give up."

Bauer said many people think of arthritis as something that only targets older people.

"They don't think about the children who suffer," she said. "So many people, young and old, are crippled by arthritis and take horrible medications with side effects. In my lifetime, I probably won't see a cure. But we should be thinking about the young people who have arthritis and what their future will hold."

Tables of pamphlets and magazines concerning arthritis were available during the event, as well as information on the Arthritis Prevention, Control and Cure Act, a bill in Congress supported by the Arthritis Foundation.

As people walked at Fairgrounds Park, signs with facts about arthritis were posted along the track.

"Take notice of some of the information and statistics," Hayman said. "That's why we're here today."

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