Thirteen-year-old, Solon-native Laura Kichler hopes to make an impact advocating for awareness and funding to support the Arthritis Foundation. A victim of juvenile arthritis, Laura wants her involvement to help improve the lives of others living with the disease.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. It affects more than 50 million adults and 300,000 children nationwide, yet there are just not enough trained doctors to treat those who suffer from arthritis.
Laura was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis in 2012, when she was in sixth grade. Her illness, combined with frequent surgeries and doctor appointments, made it challenging for her to attend school and other social activities. Laura and her family struggled to gain support from the public school system, as it was difficult for others to understand the internal battle she was suffering. Last April, her family decided to enroll her at Ohio Virtual Academy (OHVA) so she could continue her education from home.
Since making the switch to online education, Laura has made significant strides academically and is able to receive the demanding medical attention she needs while still having time to study and participate in extracurricular activities. Prior to her diagnosis, Laura was a competitive gymnast, swimmer and athlete. Laura maintains a good academic performance while working toward a more normal life again, despite her ongoing battle. She is currently writing a 300-page book and is an active performer, singing, acting and most recently, sewing costumes for the local Seussical production. She also makes beaded jewelry and scented soaps for her beauty product business, L&L Co., which gives 50 percent of all proceeds to the Arthritis Foundation in honor of research for a cure.
But perhaps her most impressive feat is her involvement on the political front. Last March, Laura attended the annual Arthritis Foundation Advocacy Summit in Washington D.C., where she met with Ohio elected officials to raise awareness and support for Arthritis-friendly legislation on Capitol Hill. Along with other young advocates, Laura shared her story and asked Congress to support policies that offer increased research, better treatments and greater access to care for those who suffer from juvenile arthritis. Her efforts have also gained interest from local Congressman Dave Joyce, and together they are advocating for the passing of several bills to support funding for juvenile arthritis.