Making a Difference: Anika!

Anika, the 10 year old Youth Ambassador for the Upper Valley Arthritis Walk in Vermont is active with the Arthritis Foundation throughout the year.  Her advocacy efforts leave a lasting impression on both the local and national level.   In addition, Anika continually educates others, staying active both physically and vocally for the cause. 

Anika was diagnosed at age 3 with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammatory, autoimmune disease that affects nearly 300,000 Americans 18 and under. Although there is no known cure, physical activity is a key factor in staying healthy and combating symptoms.  “It’s really important to get your joints moving and to stay active because movement is the best medicine,” Anika said before taking the field to practice with her field hockey team. “That’s why I do so many sports and active things.”  Anika is a prime example of how movement is important if you have arthritis.  She has a daily stretching routine at home, and participates in a sport each season — field hockey in the fall, downhill skiing in the winter, lacrosse in the spring and swimming in the summer.

In addition to living and being active with arthritis, Anika has been traveling annually to Washington DC for the past three years and lobbying lawmakers over rules and regulations that can negatively impact the growth and progress of those with arthritis.  This year a prevalent topic was patients’ access to treatment.  Through lobbying legislators, Anika said change is possible.  “It raises awareness to the congressman and hopefully we can get them to sign onto bills,” she said intently, demonstrating a familiarity with the legislative process far beyond her years.

Anika “has become quite the advocate,” her mother noted, meeting with U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT), and U.S. Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT), on her most recent trip in March.  Welch described Anika as “direct, friendly and quite persuasive,” after their joint meeting during the arthritis Advocacy Summit event on Capitol Hill.  Anika convinced Representative Welch to co-sponsor the Patients’ Access to Treatments Act of 2013, a bill that would prohibit medications for certain chronic or disabling conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis, from being classed in a more expensive specialty tier of drugs.  “She was the one that brought (the bill) to my attention,” Welch said in an interview with the Upper Valley News. “It was something that I wasn’t aware of until she approached me — and we are a cosponsor now, specifically as a result of her advocacy.”

A little closer to home, Anika and her family spearheaded the second annual Upper Valley Arthritis Walk at Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital on September 28th.  There was a silent auction, a 50/50 raffle draw, children’s activities and a yoga instructor, all to the beat of live music.  The Arthritis Foundation of New England thanks Anika, and her family for their commitment to the Arthritis Foundation and our fight together, for a cure!


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