Charity run helps Cassie & Friends Society raise funds and build connections

Patient involvement is increasingly recognized as an important part of effective health care and research. Working groups and consultations involving patients are becoming standard practice, and these interactions help create ties between patients, care providers, and researchers.

Cassie & Friends Society takes this collaborative approach one step further by bringing these groups together in late-June each year. Since its founding in 2007, Cassie & Friends Society has entered a run/walk team in the Scotiabank Half-Marathon and 5K Charity Challenge to raise funds and form connections for children and families affected by childhood rheumatic diseases. Now in its ninth consecutive year, their team has raised more money and clocked more kilometers than any other participating charity in this annual event.

This year’s run was the best ever for Team Cassie & Friends, with 120 runners and walkers raising more than $116,000.

Juvenile Arthritis researcher Dr. Kelly Brown, a 2016 MSFHR Scholar, ran in the race as part of the team. For Brown, this unique interaction fosters greater engagement and investment in her research.

“The event helps to re-focus my research group and remind us of the urgent need to advance our understanding of these diseases,” she says.

“It allows teams to connect on a personal level outside the formalities of the workplace. It provides a place to converse, share stories, and informally reflect on past successes and challenges in a way that doesn’t usually happen at work.”

As of 2016, the charity run also provides a more tangible benefit to Brown’s research. The highly competitive Scholar Award she received in the 2016 MSFHR Scholar Program was made possible by the partnership of Cassie & Friends Society and the fundraising efforts of those who support the charity run.

The award will support Brown to investigate better ways to measure inflammation in rheumatic diseases such as Juvenile Arthritis, particularly when it is at low levels. Her project aims to support better treatment decisions for children with a rheumatic disease.

In addition to funding research, the charity run proceeds go towards pediatric care, education, advocacy, and support services for kids and families affect by Juvenile Arthritis and other rheumatic diseases. This support is crucial, as Juvenile Arthritis is one of the most common chronic childhood health issues in Canada, affecting three in 1000 children, yet still relatively unknown. It attacks the joints, causing pain, fatigue and mobility challenges, but it can also attack vital organs, including the eyes.

Jennifer Wilson, Executive Director of Cassie and Friends Society, describes the importance of the Scotiabank Charity Challenge for their community of kids and parents: "Just imagine: kids running alongside their parents, their siblings, their grandparents, their doctors, leading researchers and other friends. This will give you a sense of the powerful feeling of support and togetherness this event brings for families who often face the day-to-day struggles, pain and fear of their child's chronic disease alone."