"Since we have been to several conferences, we have developed relationships with families that we consider to be our second family. This year, we were able to re-connect with all of those families and the time spent with them is more precious than I can express in words. When we are with our JA family, there is no judgement; no doubt about our daughter’s pain and no negative words are spoken. We are in the presence of people who just get it."
- Crawford Family
"The information we took away from the experience was an absolute relief and the people we were able to meet and share our stories together made the experience invaluable. We finally had answers for our confusion and feelings of hopelessness."
- Donna Serna and Erika Moss, Seminole, Florida
"It meant a lot to me. It was the first time I went to any conference and as a matter of fact, it was the first time I met any other children with arthritis. I felt like I could talk to other people and they would understand me and know that we are not that different. I felt like I belonged at the J.A. conference."
- Jaden, Age Six
"Thank you for the opportunity to meet and connect with other families, to listen to experts in the fields of rheumatology and immunology who are making new in roads to treatments, to ask questions of these experts and hear real answers. Mostly, I want to thank you for the chance to just breathe. A few days at the conference gave us a little bit of space and a little bit of time to allow a little bit of hope to grow."
- Miller Family (Susan, Simeon, Hayden and Henry Lee), Silverthorne, CO
"At JA conference, our entire family gets to have the chance to realize that we are not alone in this daily battle with JA. [...] Our second child who doesn't have JA also benefits from JA conference. Damon has made lifelong friends. It helps him to deal with his sister and her illness but also helps him to learn how to handle his own feelings related to JA."
- Penner Family
"I am having trouble finding the words to express just how much it meant to us... to not only learn more about our son's disease... but to be surrounded by the love and acceptance of such a wonderful community. It was an experience that we will treasure always."
- Amanda Hendrix and Family
"The conference changed me. I am no longer scared about my daughter’s future, but I am hopeful."
- Nicole Gouvia and Family
"My daughter was shy at first at the conference but then at the end of the conference was a butterfly coming out of her cocoon and was able to express how she really feels and meet new friends. Words cannot tell you how important that is for us to see that and it’s all because of the conference and meeting others."
- Kellyn, Brian and Elise Weber
"This was my first year going to the JA Conference and also the first time I’d ever met other kids with arthritis. It was a really special experience and it’s great to know that I’m not the only kid out there with this disease."
- Adeline Furlow, age 14
“My family and I have attended 6 years of conferences in a row and we do not plan to miss one! I will never forget at our first conference when we picked our daughter with JA up from her first kids session. Laniese was smiling from ear to ear and couldn't stop talking about the new friends she had made and that they had to get shots too. Up until that moment she and we felt so isolated and alone because of her JA. Laniese had gone from a happy kid to a withdrawn sick girl with the JA but JA Conference 2012 gave us our daughter back. As parents, we realized we were not a lone either! We learned more about the disease process and treatments. We learned that we were not the only ones that struggle with shot night and we were welcomed into the JA family! Our son who does not have JA has learned about his sister's JA and has met other kids with and without JA. These friendships have helped him in reacting to her but also that he isn't alone either. It is a family experience. All of these experiences were priceless to us. We continue to go back to JA conference each year so we can be reunited with our JA Family and recharge our batteries for the daily battle with JA! We always learn something new in this journey with JA at each conference. Now we are passing on the benefits we have gained through the years by volunteering and helping at conference. Our family considers JA Conference our mental health retreat every year in the JA battle. We are so thankful for the Arthritis Foundation for providing families like ours with the JA Conference each year!”
- Staci Penner and Family, Newton, Kansas
"The scholarship we received for my daughter age 16, changed our lives. We have been traveling the arthritis journey for over 10 years. We live in a very rural town and have never had the opportunity to attend a conference. It allowed us to feel like we belonged, like it was ok for Hayli to be different. It meant sharing our story with others who just started on this journey and listening to others who are where we are at. We learned so much about medication options, pain treatments, research and fundraising. She learned age specific things about how to manage and live with her arthritis and how to overcome the challenges she feels daily. I have never felt such powerful emotions as I watched my JIA daughter connect with other kids who know how this disease feels. The first night as I looked around the room at the dinner I was overcome with emotion. All those families in one place supporting and caring about Juvenile Arthritis was overwhelming. Thank you for sponsoring this conference and for changing the lives of these kids. We could never have afforded to take our family without your generosity and I am so thankful I got to experience and learn from it.
- The Austin Family (Milissa mother of Hayli age 16 with JIA)
"My daughter and I cannot thank you enough for the opportunity to attend the conference this past summer in Houston. Without the scholarship we would not have been able to attend. We both learned a lot and was also good for my daughter Grace to meet and interact with kids her age that face some of the same struggles and know she isn’t alone. JA is not only hard physically on the child but takes a toll on them mentally too. It’s hard for their peers to always understand JA and relate. The conference allowed my daughter to not only learn more about JA, have lots of fun with kids that understand what she is going through, and gain confidences in herself and increase her self-esteem. For me as a parent the classes were very helpful and I learned new things. It was also great to be around other parents and have the support and encouragement."
- Heather Nordgren and Grace Moyers
"I would like to take a moment to thank you for granting us such an incredible opportunity. Katherine has had quite a challenging year. She was attending school only part-time, spending most days in unending pain and feeling isolated and sad. The excitement of knowing the conference was coming and she would be able to attend was a gift itself! While at the conference, Katherine met other kids who were also going through rough patches and felt a little less isolated. She met many kids either new to the disease or currently less affected by it. She felt like the seasoned veteran and took pride in that status. My husband and I took every opportunity to hit up the medical professionals and other parents for their knowledge and advice. Katherine was scheduled to be admitted to a Pediatric Pain Rehab program after conference and I needed all the reassurance I could find that this was the right path for her. I can’t thank the AF enough for providing me with such an incredible chance to glean knowledge and support."
- Kirsten Wilder
"Thank you so much for all that you do for the Arthritis Foundation and for all the families living with this disease. The JA Conference was an amazing experience and we felt so blessed to be able to go and take 2 of our children that live and struggle with JIA. They finally saw there are other children that have the same struggles that they do. As a parent is was also wonderful to meet other families who were willing to listen to our stories and share their experiences. The sessions were filled with great information and we came out of the conference renewed and armed with new information to help our children fight and win over this disease. Our days may be filled with medicine, shots and doctors appointments but it was great to have a little break and have our kids be with other children just like them. We are sincerely great full for all the sponsors that helped make this trip happen for our family."
- The Penrod/Loza Family
"We would like to take the time to say thank you very much for the incredible opportunity to attend the 2017 National JA Conference. As a veteran family this year we had many amazing opportunities. The first being able to personally tell our stories to the event sponsors and show them how important it is that they continue to fund these Arthritis Foundation events for our families, second, we had a buddy family this year and being able to connect and help them through the four days was amazing. We made life long bonds with them and found out they only live 20 minutes from us, third, we were able to speak at a fundraising session and share our successes with fundraising. Lastly, our 12 year was able to speak to her peers during a session. She said it was so empowering being able to tell others that it's going to be ok, to get up every day and make the best of it. We were also able to sit through some sessions that we've found very helpful now that we are home. Our lives are always changed and we go away with such a hopeful outlook on our daughter's journey."
- Anna, Aaron, and Graci Diggs
"Our time in Houston was definitely not something we will ever forget! My 11 year old daughter who struggles with arthritis said "it was the BEST weekend ever, everyone just gets me there"... typically my daughter will not talk about her disease so to see her having fun and openly talking about her arthritis makes me so happy.... she even made a couple friends that she cannot wait to see again! This was also a very eye opening experience for my husband who somewhat pretends the arthritis is not there or that it's not real... he now has a better understanding of how to help our daughter and be there for her. He also met some other men that he could talk to, which was amazing! We are SO grateful to the arthritis foundation and the scholarship sponsors, without you we would not have been able to make this trip... it was life changing and we will be forever grateful!"
- Garrett, Kate, Kali & Knox Roper
"We can't thank the Arthritis foundation enough for the opportunity we had this year to attend the Juvenile Arthritis conference. This was the second conference we have attended, and we feel we learned so much more this year and connected with so many new friends. Our son Harrisen is 13 yrs old and was diagnosed with JIA, Enthesitis Related Arthritis when he was 10. He has just started giving himself his own medication. He made a handful of great friends this year and they are still texting each other and planning when they can meet at the conference next year. He now has friends who understand some of the many struggles that come with having JIA and that is invaluable. We can't begin to put into words how grateful we are, from the moms and dads breakout sessions to our two younger children connecting with other siblings and making great friends we had such an amazing experience and learned so much."
- Dawson, Karah, Harrisen, Anderson and Leighton