Amplifying Our Impact

Christine Cicio's family found help from the Arthritis Foundation when she was a child. She has volunteered ever since to help support others with arthritis.

By Allison Wilcosky | April 19, 2024

When Christine Cicio was diagnosed with a form of juvenile arthritis at age 12, it started her journey with the Arthritis Foundation that continues to this day. 

Her pediatric rheumatologist, who was affiliated with the Foundation, put her family in touch. One of the first things that the Foundation did for them was to connect them with another family.  

“Their son was a few years older than me, but he also had arthritis. They came over when I was prescribed my first biologic to show us how to do the shots,” Christine shared. “It was amazing to show that we had a community, that we weren’t alone. They even lived right up the street from us, and we never would have been connected with them otherwise if it hadn’t been for the Arthritis Foundation.” 

When Christine was 14, her parents encouraged her to go to Camp CHAT, a week-long residential JA Camp. “I was never a camp kid,” Christine says. “But my parents thought it would be a good thing for me to go because I was struggling throughout my diagnosis. I was missing school. I had to quit soccer.” 

The camp was a life-changing experience for Christine — the friends she made there are still good friends to this day. 

“Those are the types of connections that you can make through the Arthritis Foundation, especially early on in your diagnosis and when you're looking for that community. The connections that I formed early on during my personal journey were so important,” she says. 

“When I was in college, I had a major flare and an additional diagnosis of psoriatic arthritis. I had multiple surgeries and the friends that I made at camp and through the Arthritis Foundation really helped me through that. The Arthritis Foundation helped not only me, but my family navigate some of the complexities of that.” 

Christine’s involvement with camp continued through her college years, when she served as camp coordinator. And it was just the beginning.   

Jack of All Trades 

Christine served on the JA committee and, after she realized there was no group for those aged 21 to 40, she established a young adult committee. 

She volunteered to help run New Jersey’s first Walk to Cure Arthritis in 2005 and was a pioneer for the state’s first Jingle Bell Run in 2007, participating every year since in both events. In 2021, she joined the national Jingle Bell Run committee. 

As a Platinum Ambassador, she has attended numerous Arthritis Foundation Advocacy Conferences. She’s now the state advocacy chair for Pennsylvania and is dedicated to ensuring that all patients with arthritis have access to affordable and high-quality healthcare.  

Since 2017, Christine has served as a member of the New Jersey local leadership board. Christine currently serves on the national DEI committee and is co-chairing the 2024 New Jersey Evening of Honors event.  

“I feel like we got involved for a mission and connection, but I've stayed involved for all parts of the Arthritis Foundation. I understand the importance of research. I understand the importance of advocacy, and I understand the importance of those connections. And that, threefold, is just so important for people with arthritis,” Christine explains. 

“That's why I've stayed involved and why I continue to volunteer, because I really do believe that the Arthritis Foundation is positioned to move forward and provide more to patients with arthritis.” 

Getting Involved 

Christine never shies away from sharing her involvement with the Arthritis Foundation and pulling people into volunteering. “I’ve realized I’m good at understanding what other people's interests and strengths are, and I've learned how to connect the dots. Pulling more people in just amplifies what our impact can be.” 

When it comes to advice for volunteers, Christine’s advice is simple: 

“You can pick your own journey and you can do what you want to do. It’s important for new volunteers to connect locally to see what opportunities are available. You may want to get involved with local events, fundraising, connect groups, or advocacy. Ask yourself: what are you passionate about and what are your strengths? Where can you use those strengths for something that you care about and enjoy? Because when you enjoy doing it, it doesn't feel like work.” 

Christine’s heart is filled whenever someone new comes into the organization. “Even if we just have one or two new people that join,” she shares, “seeing them connect on a deeper level with other people that are facing similar challenges to them and realizing that they're not alone fills my heart every single time and makes it all worth it.” 


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