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Kickoff event gives 46 million reasons to walk

Posted: March 7, 2008 1:38 a.m.
Updated: May 8, 2008 5:02 a.m.

Katrina Weiner, who has rheumatoid arthritis, shares some laughs with friend Michele Olafsson at the kickoff party for the fourth annual Arthritis Walk.

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Last night Valencia Acura hosted the kickoff party of the fourth annual Santa Clarita Arthritis Walk, which will take place on Sunday, April 27. This is the Arthritis Foundation's annual local event to raise awareness and funds to fight arthritis, which affects 46 million men, women and children in the U.S. - and those are just the ones who have been diagnosed.

The guests of the kickoff party enjoyed music, wine and food. The many notables in attendance included the walk's honorary chair, Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, and Cheri and Don Fleming (walk chair and sponsorship chair) and medical chairperson, Dr. Yoon Min.

Cheri Fleming has suffered from rheumatoid arthritis since age 29.

"This is really personal to me," she said. "We need to find a cure for this disease. So many people are affected."

She praised the advancements in treatment of the disease that have occurred in recent years - in particular the "bio" drug Enbrel, which she takes weekly injections of. She noted that since being on the drug since 2005, her joints have not deteriorated any further.

"That's what the Arthritis Foundation does," she said.

Patty Williams, regional vice president and executive director of the Valley Branch of the Arthritis Foundation, said the Arthritis Walk is a non-competitive family event, with one- and three-mile options.

"Dogs are invited. Dogs get arthritis, too," she said.

Of the several folks who addressed the audience, 21-year-old Travis Shaffery may have made the biggest impression.

He has had systemic juvenile rheumatoid arthritis since he was 10, and his emotional story may have inspired many of those present to begin signing up for teams for the walk. Besides, they had been told the doors would remain locked until they did.

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