NEW YORK, July 2, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- At just 11 months old, New York City resident Jennifer "Jen" Horonjeff was diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis, the most common type of juvenile arthritis (JA). Now a 31-year-old researcher in the field of biomechanics and rheumatology, Jen has always refused to let the disease hold her back and is ready to set out on perhaps the biggest challenge of her life.
On Friday, July 3, she – along with boyfriend Keegan Stephan – will embark on a 1,400-mile tandem bike ride down the East Coast with the goal of arriving in Orlando, Fla. in time for the Arthritis Foundation's 31st annual National Juvenile Arthritis Conference. Jen hopes the journey will raise awareness of juvenile arthritis and serve as an inspiration to families who are coping with the disease.
"The idea for this ride was first presented to me as a dare, but it didn't take long before I wrapped my head around the idea and decided to do it," says Jen. "In my 30 years with the disease, I've always wanted to challenge my physical abilities. There are so many misconceptions about who gets arthritis, and I want be a face for what this disease really is, who it affects, and the different ways it can impact people's lives."
Juvenile arthritis, which impacts an estimated 300,000 children in the U.S., is an umbrella term for a number of childhood diseases affecting the joints and musculoskeletal system. The diseases share common symptoms, like pain, joint swelling, redness and warmth, but each has its own unique characteristics and affects the body differently.
Jen recently earned her PhD in environmental medicine in the program of ergonomics and biomechanics at New York University, focusing on physical activity in childhood and adult-onset rheumatic diseases. She is also a passionate advocate and role model for children with JA, and currently serves on a number of boards, including the Arthritis Foundation's 2015 National JA Task Team. She has also established support groups and designed programming, both locally and nationally, for families and young adults.
"Jen has been a role model and a devoted advocate for young people living with juvenile arthritis," says Ann Palmer, president and CEO of the Arthritis Foundation. "We are proud and inspired by her resilience and her commitment to empowering families to say Yes to charting their own course."
At the National JA Conference in Orlando, which takes place July 23-26, Jen will join with more than 1,700 young adults, kids and family members who come together to learn about the latest in medical research and treatments for JA and other rheumatic diseases and share information on how to make living with the condition easier.
"I am excited and passionate about this journey," says Jen. "The road might be tough at times, but if I can go to bed at night knowing I showed people we can live beyond this disease, I will feel like I've met my goal."
About the Arthritis Foundation:
The Arthritis Foundation is the Champion of Yes. Leading the fight for the arthritis community, the Foundation helps conquer everyday battles through life-changing information and resources, access to optimal care, advancements in science and community connections. The Arthritis Foundation's goal is to chart a winning course, guiding families in developing personalized plans for living a full life – and making each day another stride towards a cure. The Foundation also publishes Arthritis Today, the award-winning magazine that reaches 4.2 million readers.
SOURCE Arthritis Foundation