Community

New arthritis support group will meet before Jingle Bell Run

Independent staff report

Before the Jingle Bell Run/Walk fundraiser for the Arthritis Foundation gets going Saturday afternoon, a new regional support group for families who have children afflicted with juvenile arthritis will hold its inaugural meeting in Port Orchard.

The group is named KAT-MASH (Make Arthritis Stop Hurting) and the meeting is set for 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the Subway at 435 Sedgwick Road. Free sandwiches will be provided for those attending.

KAT-MASH is intended to be a support and networking group for families in Kitsap, Mason, Pierce, Thurston and Lewis counties. A pediatric physical therapist will make a presentation to the families at Saturday’s meeting.

“It’s a chance for families get to know each other, and connect with someone who’s going through same thing you’re going through,” said Heather Schoone, the Port Orchard woman who is the volunteer coordinator for KAT-MASH.

Schoone, who was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis when she was 8, said youngsters and their families coping with arthritis have the chance to meet and interact at a summer camp program run by the Arthritis Foundation, and she hopes her group will help maintain those relationships throughout the year.

Depending on the response Saturday, Schoone said she hopes to arrange quarterly meetings to be held at different locations in the counties KAT-MASH serves.

“I’d like to have an educational presentation at each meeting, especially for families who are new to the world of arthritis,” she said.

Schoone, a stay-at-home mother of two young children, grew up in Wisconsin and said she was helped by a support group that explained how physical therapy, nutrition, etc. could help her deal with her condition. She said she still keeps in touch with other arthritis sufferers she met in childhood.

“My big thing is, you really have to teach your own child to be their best advocate,” she said. “I think the best thing about being diagnosed as a child is you learn to make adjustments.”

To RSVP for Saturday’s meeting or get more inform-ation about KAT-MASH, contact Schoone at hmschoone@hotmail.com.

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