Arthritis Foundation Announces National Volunteer Award Winners

Champion Awards honor excellence in volunteer leadership.

ATLANTA (March 11, 2024) — Nearly 400 people from around the country, including arthritis patients, advocates, caregivers and health care professionals, gathered for the Arthritis Foundation’s Pathways Conference in McLean, Virginia, March 7-9. Attendees connected with fellow volunteers, experts and Arthritis Foundation leaders to rally and strategize next steps in the effort to conquer arthritis, and to recognize individuals who have had a positive impact on the arthritis community. 

The Foundation’s Champion Awards are given to individual volunteers or volunteer groups who have demonstrated exemplary leadership and commitment to furthering the Foundation’s mission. These volunteers lead fundraising efforts, build partnerships and champion arthritis-related activities in their communities. 

A national selection committee has named Christine Cicio, Kerry Ferraro, Jeffrey Larger, Debbie Marshall and Rick Phillips as the Arthritis Foundation 2024 Champion Award winners. 

Christine Cicio, New Jersey
Christine was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis at age 12, forcing her to adapt to a new way of life with the help and support of her family. She has taken every opportunity that Arthritis Foundation has provided her with and paid it forward. She stepped up and became a leader in the Arthritis Foundation, volunteering and making an impact in New Jersey, where she has served as a member of the New Jersey local leadership board since 2017, in Pennsylvania, where she serves as Advocacy Chair, and nationally through patient advocacy work and mentoring. 

Kerry Ferraro, Pennsylvania
Kerry became a dedicated volunteer with the Arthritis Foundation in 2012 when her then 2-year-old daughter was diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) affecting her right knee, ankle and pinky toe. After many doctors’ visits and testing, she finally was correctly diagnosed by a pediatric rheumatologist.  

In 2019, Kerry developed concerning symptoms and was ultimately diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Since experiencing challenges related to her treatment, Kerry has channeled her energy into raising awareness including through advocacy efforts.  Her connections to local and state officials as well as those elected to represent Pennsylvania on the federal level have been key to advancing advocacy around step therapy and many more issues locally and federally.

Debbie Marshall, Minnesota 
As a volunteer in Minnesota for 15 years, Debbie has been loud and proud about sharing her journey with rheumatoid arthritis and serving the arthritis community at both local and national levels. She has served in several roles on the Local Leadership Board, including Board Chair, as well as on multiple Walk to Cure Juvenile Arthritis and Jingle Bell Run Events Committees. As a member of the national Volunteer Engagement Task Team since 2019, Debbie has helped formalize strategy around nationwide volunteer engagement, from recruitment to development to recognition. She supported the launch of our first standardized volunteer recruitment process by providing valuable insights from her perspective as a longtime volunteer and Leadership Board member.   

Jeffrey Larger, Ohio
Jeff’s impact on the arthritis community stems from his dedication to the Arthritis Foundation’s Charity Auto Show held annually in Dublin, Ohio. Jeff is a respected figure in the automotive and car show communities has helped the event remain one of the largest charity car shows in the Midwest. His unparalleled knowledge and extensive network have been instrumental in recruiting and coordinating relationships with vendors, sponsors and volunteers. In addition to his tireless volunteerism, Jeff also donates generously to the cause. Jeff's enduring influence and positive contributions have left an indelible mark on the Charity Auto Show community, earning him the respect and admiration of all who have had the privilege of working alongside him. 

Rick Phillips, Indiana
Rick Phillips is one of the Arthritis Foundation’s most vocal and dedicated volunteers, locally and nationally. He was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 2000, and since then has used his experience and his voice to make a difference for patients across the country through his volunteerism, advocacy and engagement. Rick writes and speaks extensively about his experiences living with type 1 diabetes, RA, and ankylosing spondylitis through a variety of mediums, sharing his perspective as a man living with multiple chronic diseases. Rick raises funds in his local market and supports the Foundation through advocacy at the state and federal levels. 

Find out about Arthritis Foundation volunteer opportunities in your community. 

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