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Riley Gonzales goes to Washington

Moses Lake boy advocates arthritis awareness

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Posted: Sunday, March 18, 2012 9:05 am

MOSES LAKE - Riley Gonzales is used to raising awareness of arthritis in Washington state.

Next month, the 5-year-old boy from Moses Lake gets to take his message to the other Washington.

Riley is traveling to the nation's capital to share his story with legislators at the Arthritis Foundation's annual advocacy summit.

Riley was born with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in the joints. He was selected as the honoree for last year's Spokane Jingle Bell Run, an event put on by the Arthritis Foundation.

When Riley's mom, Brooke, heard about the opportunity to travel to D.C. through the foundation, she jumped at the opportunity.

The trip gives Riley and his family an opportunity to tell their story and encourage more focus on researching arthritis and possibly finding new treatments or cures, said Brooke.

Pushing for change is the purpose of the summit, said Johanna Lindsay, vice president of programs with the Arthritis Foundation, Great West Region.

"The number one goal is to make sure that our members of Congress know that there are people living in their state, real people, that have arthritis and are affected significantly; and that it's not just older adults - it's younger adults and kids that live with the debilitating effects of arthritis," she said.

In Washington state, 1,302,000 adults and 6,100 children have arthritis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"It is amazing what this opportunity does," said Lindsay. "Riley's so outgoing that I think this is going to be really fun for him. And for parents, too. A lot of times when you're dealing with a chronic illness, things are so out of control sometimes, this really puts the power back in their hands. They can actually use their story to make a difference ... It definitely gives them a boost of confidence that they really need to hear when they're dealing with the ins and outs of arthritis on a daily basis."

Riley and his family will speak with Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray and Rep. Doc Hastings, said Lindsay, adding that Riley is the first person from Washington's fourth congressional district to attend the summit.

Riley and other child attendees will receive advocacy training from Christopher Kush, who provides training for a number of health agencies, said Lindsay.

"He makes it so much fun for the kids," she said. "Riley will probably be better prepared than the adults."

Riley's trip of a lifetime starts off with another important milestone.

"This will be his first time flying in an airplane, too," said Brooke. "Especially since he loves airplanes, this is going to be one great experience for him.

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