Nolan Walker was honored over the Fourth of July weekend at the Arthritis Foundation’s national Juvenile Arthritis (JA) Conference with The Dawn Hafeli Award for Youth Leadership. The conference was held in Keystone, Colo. Hafeli, the conference co-founder and arthritis awareness trailblazer, personally presented the award.
The annual national award is presented to a youth or young adult who has shown exceptional courage and strength in their own experience of living with a childhood rheumatic disease; demonstrated leadership by volunteering time and talents to benefit other youth and young adults who have a rheumatic disease; served others through school or work activities; involved in extracurricular activities and community service; served as a role model for children and youth with rheumatic diseases.
Since 2007, Walker’s approach to battling his arthritis has been full-throttle and hands-on.
For the past seven years, Walker, 18, has been a Walk to Cure Arthritis participant and volunteer. Numbers tell the story and his numbers are impressive: In addition to having one of the largest Walk to Cure Arthritis teams (average of over 100 team members each year), Walker’s team – Nolan’s Walkers – has raised more than $12,000. Walker has been directly involved with the majority of the fundraising.
Diagnosed with polyarticular juvenile rheumatoid arthritis at age 7, Walker’s parents encouraged his proactive participation in the management of his arthritis.
As the 2012 Cleveland Walk to Cure Arthritis Youth Honoree, Walker exceeded his fundraising record and team participation record that year.
“Back in 2012 being honored as the Northeastern Ohio arthritis hero (Cleveland Walk to Cure Arthritis) was a huge honor in itself but to now be honored nationally for my efforts is amazing. I am very grateful for all of the opportunities that the Arthritis Foundation has provided for me over the years. Being able to go to Colorado, talk to other families with JA, and take in valuable information while having fun at the same time was a great experience that I will always remember,” Walker said.
He has volunteered at Arthritis Foundation phone banks, created videos to encourage team donations, and used his creativity to plan popular basketball shoot-outs at school to raise funds for the Walk to Cure Arthritis.
Next year’s JA Conference will be held July 23-26 at the Royale Caribe just outside Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.