Ryan Conner: Harnessing Creative Fire for Patient Advocacy 

 Meet Ryan Conner, a lifelong Juvenile Arthritis patient who was able to find confidence and support through his experiences with Juvenile Arthritis events and conferences. 

By Emily Delzell 

Ryan Conner, 25, is a master’s student at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Brandcenter in Richmond, which combines the study of business and creative skills to prepare graduates for leadership roles in marketing and advertising. 

“It’s more work than I’ve ever had to do in my life, but it’s also more fun than anything I’d ever imagined,” says Conner, who hopes to work for clients with an influential market presence after graduation—including the Arthritis Foundation (AF). 

Using his expertise to give back to the arthritis community is important to Conner, who was diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis at age 2. “I’ve been affected by arthritis for as far back as I can remember, but when I was younger, I never wanted to talk about it,” he says. “ I’d never met anyone else with it, and I guess I wanted to pretend I was normal.” 

Although diagnosed as a toddler, Conner didn’t get involved with AF until after g high school, despite years of encouragement from his pediatric rheumatologist. 

His doctor thought he’d be a good speaker and advocate, but the idea of sharing his fears and insecurities was too intimidating then. “I was shy at the time, I wasn’t super talkative, and I didn’t see myself as a leader,” says Conner. 

Eventually, Conner got tired of feeling isolated and wanted to meet people who could relate to what he was going through. 

The Power of Confidence  

At 19, Conner attended his first AF event, the 2011 Juvenile Arthritis Conference in Washington, D.C. At the time, he had a poor body image and low self-esteem. Years of damage from arthritis had left Conner with limited range of motion, stiffness, and pain in his wrists and many other joints. He had to give up baseball, a sport he loved, and struggled with his weight. 

Meeting peers with his condition provided perspective—and confidence. “I sort of fell in love with the whole organization,” he says. “It was very liberating to meet people who, like me, had arthritis when they were kids, still have it now, and had some of the same sorts of difficulties I did.” 

Since then, Conner has been a dedicated AF volunteer, participating in several events for kids and young adults with arthritis. He is also a member of the foundation’s Virginia State Leadership Board and serves as its Young Adult Chair. 

Conner says his work with the Arthritis Foundation has made him a more well-rounded, self-assured person. “ It wasn’t the easiest thing, and there are things I still struggle with today, but I’m a lot more comfortable in my own skin now,” he says.   


I Want to Contribute
I Need Help
  • Donate


    Every gift to the Arthritis Foundation will help people with arthritis across the U.S. live their best life.

  • Volunteer


    Join us and become a Champion of Yes. There are many volunteer opportunities available.

  • Live Yes! INSIGHTS

    Live Yes! INSIGHTS

    Take part to be among those changing lives today and changing the future of arthritis.

  • Partner


    Proud Partners of the Arthritis Foundation make an annual commitment to directly support the Foundation’s mission.


Ways to Give

Every gift to the Arthritis Foundation will help people with arthritis across the U.S. live their best life. Whether it is supporting cutting-edge research, 24/7 access to one-on-one support, resources and tools for daily living, and more, your gift will be life-changing.

Make a Donation

Help millions of people live with less pain and fund groundbreaking research to discover a cure for this devastating disease. Please, make your urgently-needed donation to the Arthritis Foundation now!

Become a Member

Become an Arthritis Foundation member today for just $20 and you'll receive access to helpful tools..... and more. 

Make a Honor or Memorial Gift

Honor a loved one with a meaningful donation to the Arthritis Foundation. We'll send a handwritten card to the honoree or their family notifying them of your thoughtful gift.

Gift Planning

I want information on ways to remember the AF in my will, trust or other financial planning vehicles.


Volunteer Opportunities

The Arthritis Foundation is focused on finding a cure and championing the fight against arthritis with life-changing information, advocacy, science and community. We can only achieve these goals with your help. Strong, outspoken and engaged volunteers will help us conquer arthritis. By getting involved, you become a leader in our organization and help make a difference in the lives of millions. Join us and become a Champion of Yes.

Become a Volunteer

More About Volunteering


Give Just 10 Minutes.

Tell us what matters most to you. Change the future of arthritis.

By taking part in the Live Yes! INSIGHTS assessment, you’ll be among those changing lives today and changing the future of arthritis, for yourself and for 54 million others. And all it takes is just 10 minutes.

Your shared experiences will help:

- Lead to more effective treatments and outcomes
- Develop programs to meet the needs of you and your community
- Shape a powerful agenda that fights for you

Now is the time to make your voice count, for yourself and the entire arthritis community. 

Currently this program is for the adult arthritis community.  Since the needs of the juvenile arthritis (JA) community are unique, we are currently working with experts to develop a customized experience for JA families. 

How are you changing the future?

By sharing your experience, you’re showing decision-makers the realities of living with arthritis, paving the way for change. You’re helping break down barriers to care, inform research and create resources that make a difference in people’s lives, including your own.

Get Started


Meet Our Partners

As a partner, you will help the Arthritis Foundation provide life-changing resources, science, advocacy and community connections for people with arthritis, the nations leading cause of disability. Join us today and help lead the way as a Champion of Yes.


Our Trailblazers are committed partners ready to lead the way, take action and fight for everyday victories. They contribute $2,000,000 to $2,749,000


Our Visionary partners help us plan for a future that includes a cure for arthritis. These inspired and inventive champions have contributed $1,500,00 to $1,999,999.


Our Pioneers are always ready to explore and find new weapons in the fight against arthritis. They contribute $1,000,000 to $1,499,999.


Our Pacesetters ensure that we can chart the course for a cure for those who live with arthritis. They contribute $500,000 to $999,000.


Our Signature partners make their mark by helping us identify new and meaningful resources for people with arthritis. They contribute $250,000 to $499,999.


Our Supporting partners are active champions who provide encouragement and assistance to the arthritis community. They contribute $100,000 to $249,999.