Bev Schulte and Allison Enns, co-organizers of the first ever Campbell River Arthritis Walk have their blue and white shirts and posters all printed up and are ready for next weekend’s event at Rotary Beach Park. Photo by Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror

Walking for a cure for arthritis

First Campbell River Arthritis Walk will take place June 2 at Rotary Beach Park

Arthritis isn’t a disease.

It’s a term used to describe a group of over 100 diseases and conditions characterized by inflammation in the joints or other areas of the body. It can affect any part of the body and it affects people of all ages and from all over the socio-economic spectrum. It’s Canada’s largest chronic health condition, affecting one in five of us, according to the Canadian Arthritis Society (CAS).

And there’s no cure.

But the CAS has been working for the last 70 years to change that, raising awareness and funds to research whatever science they can to help in the battle.

And two local women have stepped up – literally and figuratively – to help them in that mission.

Bev Schulte and Allison Enns both have first-hand experience with arthritis. Schulte has suffered with it herself, while Enns has watched its effects on her daughter, who was diagnosed at the age of eight. They have come together as co-organizers of the first ever Campbell River Arthritis Walk, scheduled for next Saturday, June 2, at Rotary Beach Park.

“They’ve had one in Victoria every year that has served the whole Island,” Enns says, “but last year they did their first one in Parksville, which was a success, so this year we’re doing one in Campbell River, too.”

They’re not necessarily branching out in order to gather more funds, Schulte says. After all, many who would have donated in the past would have gone to events in major centres or just donated online.

“I think it’s more about visibility and raising awareness,” Schulte says. “The more people we can get the word out to by doing these, the faster we’ll be able to get to the cure.”

It’s also about changing the perception of who is affected by the condition, because it’s not necessarily just the elderly.

Enns’ daughter, now 15, had early complications from arthritis which included cataracts, which needed to be surgically repaired.

“One of the things that’s unique about juvenile arthritis is that it attacks the organs,” she says. “And without the extensive research that has already been done, we wouldn’t have found it in her eye exam. And that’s the kind of research we’re trying to support.”

That’s a pretty different picture than the one most people have in their head of someone suffering from arthritis, which the pair thinks is an important part of the arthritis story to get out there.

“It’s not necessarily a frail elderly person with gnarled hands,” Schulte says. “That’s the classic stereotype that everyone thinks about, so part of this is getting it out there that it affects highly-producing individuals of all ages.”

Yes, you could say Courtenay’s Spencer O’Brien is a highly-producing individual. She was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at the age of 25, but with medication and physical training keeping their hold on her condition, she went on to win a gold medal at the 2016 X Games in Aspen and competed for Canada in both the slopestyle competition and the first ever big air competition held at the Olympics just this year in PyeongChang.

The first Campbell River Arthritis Walk begins with registration at 8:30 a.m. on June 2 at Rotary Beach Park, with either a one or five km walk to follow, depending on what each participant wants to do, returning to the park for snacks, pizza and music after.

Registration is $25, or free with $100 in donations raised by the participant.

Because the walkers will be in various physical states, a representative from the BC Chiropractic Society will be on hand running the warmup and keeping close tabs on participants.

To register or pledge a donation, head online to arthritis.ca. For more information on the Campbell River Walk next weekend, contact Enns at alleyis@icloud.com