Local organizer to advocate nationally

Sheila Cline is at it again.

The Port Orchard advocate for arthritis awareness and her 11-year-old daughter, Kinsey Cline, were awarded full travel stipends to attend the Arthritis Foundation’s advocacy summit in Washington D.C. April 16-18.

Mother and daughter will take classes on advocacy training, listen to lecturs from leading arthritis scientists and meet with Congressman Norm Dicks and Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray to discuss arthritis awareness.

The Clines received one of 80 scholarships offered from the world’s largest nonprofit contributor to arthritis research. The pair is one of two in Washington state to receive the stipend.

Cline’s 15-year-old daughter, Kiera Cline, will also attend the summit.

“We’re going to learn the skills that we need to really come back and be vocal for the community,” Cline said.

Cline has long been an advocate for the more than 46 million Americans living with arthritis. In 2009, Kinsey was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis, a condition that affects nearly 300,000 children in the U.S. Cline has since started Kickin’ it for Kinsey, a volunteer group set up to raise money and awareness for the Arthritis Foundation in honor of Kinsey.

Cline also organized the largely successful inaugural Jingle Bell Run/Walk in Port Orchard in December, raising $48,887 for the Arthritis Foundation.

Still, Cline feel like she has a lot to learn about when  it comes to  advocating for a cause she believes in. The advocacy summit will teach her additional skills to raise awareness of arthritis locally and nationally.

“I do a lot of work,” she said. “But at the conference I will really learn the skills I need to have. I will be learning a lot about how to go through channels of government.”

Johanna Lindsay, the vice president for programs at the Arthritis Foundation, Great West Region, said Cline and her daughter were selected for the travel stipend because they had proven themselves as fantastic spokespeople for the foundation’s mission. Lindsay said the Jingle Bell Run/Walk went above and beyond expectations, and that the Cline Family’s yearly involvement with the Catfish Camp, a summer camp for children living with arthritis, has proven that Cline supports the cause.

More than 1.3 million Washington residents live with arthritis, Lindsay said, a higher number than people living with cancer, heart disease, and MS combined. While arthritis is not always fatal, it is a disabling disease that cost the country $127.8 billion in 2003, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Cline and her daughters will make a pitch to congressman in hopes of securing funding for arthritis medical research, Lindsay said.

“Sheila will advocate for cost contaminants of medication and for research projects,” Lindasy said.

Meanwhile, Cline has again started to plan for this December’s Jingle Bell Run/Walk. She has begun searching for donors and JB the Elf, the unofficial mascot of the Port Orchard Jingle Bell Run, will attend the PO Farmers Market opening on April 14.

“We don’t have any sponsors yet,” Cline said. “But I’m starting to work on it.”


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