Deb Constein has had rheumatoid arthritis (RA) for over 33 years. She was diagnosed at age 13 when there were few resources available for a teenager with arthritis. She gave up many things that she loved and had to manage pain, body changes, exhaustion and side effects of medications.
Many years later, Deb became involved with the Walk to Cure Arthritis. Deb has been instrumental in planning the Walk to Cure Arthritis in Madison, WI for ten years. She also serves on the area Leadership Board as the Board Chair and she recently became the Advocacy Chair after becoming an Arthritis Foundation Ambassador.
Deb dived right in to advocacy work after becoming an Advocate. She has found a true passion. She has personally met with legislators in Wisconsin who have joined the Arthritis Caucus. She was recently given the Platinum Ambassador award and received a travel and lodging grant to attend the Advocacy Summit for the first time. “I have found my voice and feel I have a story to tell that can make a huge difference to legislators,” said Deb, “I know I can make a difference and I certainly have a story to tell!”
If Deb could give any advice to others with arthritis, she would say, “Hang in there. There are many people just like you.” Deb also encourages anyone with arthritis to use the Arthritis Foundation tools and support available.
Deb is a Champion of Yes because she sees herself as someone making the most of life living with RA and encourages others to do the same. “I won’t let RA define me, I will define myself and advocate for those like me,” said Deb, “This isn’t easy, but arthritis will not hold me back!”
Jacob Scheer’s sister Madison has juvenile arthritis (JA), she was diagnosed six years ago at the age of six. Jacob is in the fourth grad and can’t wait to be a fifth grader next year. He loves to shoot on his school’s archery team and play basketball. He also loves helping his sister Madison feel better when she is feeling down or in pain.
Although Madison is currently in remission, when has to take medicine, Jacob is right there with her and drinks fake medicine with her (root beer in a similar glass to Madison’s). He also provides much needed comedic relief to make Madison laugh when she is going through a rough time.
Jacob thinks it is important to help siblings of kids with arthritis realize they are not alone. He enjoys going to JA Family Days with his family and talking to other families and siblings like him. The Scheer family went to the National JA Conference in 2015 and it was an amazing experience for all of them.
Every year Jacob and the Scheer family raise funds for the Jingle Bell Run and recently started a mini-golf fundraiser for their team. Jacob knows that as a sibling of a child with JA, he and others can often feel left out. But, Jacob makes the most of the situation and enjoys helping however he can. Jacob is a Champion of Yes to his sister and other children and siblings with JA.
Health Care Provider Champion
Joni Dean is a Pediatric Rheumatology Nurse Practitioner at American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin. Every day, she works directly with patients and families for treatment of arthritis. This could include visits in the clinic, disease and medication education, lab studies, infusions and more.
Joni believes that her relationship with the Arthritis Foundation improves her ability to care for patients. She sees Camp MASH as being especially important and beneficial to kids. Joni attended Camp MASH for the first time 15 years ago and has seen how the camp has grown over time. She also attends JA Fun Days regularly and sees the importance of parent and child discussions.
An avid participant and volunteer of the Jingle Bell Run, Joni encourages and supports patients to participate in the event. She is a new Leadership Board member and hopes to learn more and is excited to support the Foundation in this new role. Joni sees herself as a Champion of Yes by supporting the mission of the Arthritis Foundation in the many roles she takes on.
Max Larsen was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis (JA) four and a half years ago. Now, at age 12, he takes medicine daily and bi-weekly shots to manage JA. In spite of his daily pain, Max continues to play sports, hunt and fish, all activities he loves.
In 2012, Max and his family started a team for the Jingle Bell Run – Green Bay, team “To the Max”. They have participated every year since then and Max is the face of the team. He was the Youth Honoree in 2013 and was named the Top Fundraiser in the nation that year. He has continued to be the nation’s Jingle Bell Run Top Fundraiser in 2014 and 2015 raising over $30,000 each year!
Max would like to remind others with JA that people care what you are going through, to stay positive and live life as much as you can.