Named 2014 Recipient of National Dawn Hafeli Award for Youth Leadership


AMHERST, OH – Since 2007, Nolan Walker’s approach to battling his arthritis has been full-throttle and hands-on.

For the past seven years, Walker, 18, has been a Walk to Cure Arthritis participant and volunteer. Numbers tell the story and his numbers are impressive: In addition to having one of the largest Walk to Cure Arthritis teams (average of over 100 team members each year), Walker’s team – Nolan’s Walkers – has raised more than $12,000. Walker has been directly involved with the majority of the fundraising.

Diagnosed with polyarticular juvenile rheumatoid arthritis at age 7, Walker’s parents encouraged his proactive participation in the management of his arthritis.

Even as a younger child, he checked himself in at appointments, spoke for himself when the nurses and doctors asked questions, reported all the medications he was taking and let family and doctors know when he was not feeling well or having a flare.

Walker’s treatment today involves weekly injections of methotrexate, physical therapy two to three times a week and an analgesic for pain as needed.  

Walker was honored over the Fourth of July weekend at the Arthritis Foundation’s national Juvenile Arthritis (JA) Conference with The Dawn Hafeli Award for Youth Leadership. The conference was held in Keystone, CO. Hafeli, the conference co-founder and arthritis awareness trailblazer, personally presented the award.

The annual national award is presented to a youth or young adult who has shown exceptional courage and strength in their own experience of living with a childhood rheumatic disease; demonstrated leadership by volunteering time and talents to benefit other youth and young adults who have a rheumatic disease; served others through school or work activities; involved in extracurricular activities and community service; served as a role model for children and youth with rheumatic diseases.

“Back in 2012 being honored as the Northeastern Ohio arthritis hero (Cleveland Walk to Cure Arthritis) was a huge honor in itself but to now be honored nationally for my efforts is amazing.   I am very grateful for all of the opportunities that the Arthritis Foundation has provided for me over the years. Being able to go to Colorado, talk to other families with JA, and take in valuable information while having fun at the same time was a great experience that I will always remember,” Walker said.

As the 2012 Cleveland Walk to Cure Arthritis Youth Honoree, Walker exceeded his fundraising record and team participation record that year. A leader by example!

He has volunteered at Arthritis Foundation phone banks, created videos to encourage team donations, and used his creativity to plan popular basketball shoot-outs at school to raise funds for the Walk to Cure Arthritis.

Walker may have arthritis, but arthritis doesn’t have him. He has refused to let his diagnosis stop him from living a full life.

A June 2014 graduate of Marion L. Steele High School in Amherst, Walker is on his way next month to Ohio University’s Scripps program for journalism. While at Steele Walker served as president of student council as a freshman and vice president as a senior; took advanced and college credit classes and received the OHIO achievement and OHIO distinction scholarship for academic achievement. He is also a member of the National Honor Society.

Next year’s JA Conference will be held July 23-26 at the Royale Caribe just outside Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL.


From left, Dawn Hafeli, Nolan Walker, Ann Palmer, CEO Arthritis Foundation

From left, Courtney Winnen, Community Development Manager, Arthritis Foundation, Northeastern Ohio; Nolan Walker; Colene Walker, Nolan's mother

About the Arthritis Foundation

Striking one in every five adults and 300,000 children, arthritis is the nation’s leading cause of disability. The Arthritis Foundation (www.arthritis.org) is committed to raising awareness and reducing the impact of this serious, painful and unacceptable disease, which can severely damage joints and rob people of living life to its fullest. The Foundation funds life-changing research that has restored mobility in patients for more than six decades; fights for health care policies that improve the lives of the millions who live with arthritis; and partners with families to provide empowering programs and information.


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