Carnival to benefit girl's cause, raise money for Arthritis Foundation of Pittsburgh
Mariah Aquino-Truss loves to sing and dance, but the normally energetic child could barely walk two years ago.
Mariah, 7, was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis in September 2011, said her mother, Tory Aquino, 33, of Patterson Heights in Beaver County.
Mariah's medical treatment has helped her reclaim a normal childhood, but she still has bouts of pain.
“(I wish I would) feel better, and I won't have it anymore,” Mariah said.
To raise awareness and money for the Arthritis Foundation of Pittsburgh, Mariah's family is hosting the second annual Mariah's Movers Carnival on Saturday at Brady's Run Lodge in Beaver Falls.
There will be pony rides, arts and crafts, face-painting, a reptile show and other activities. Businesses and individuals are donating money, services or goods to support the carnival, Aquino said.
Mariah's Carnival is the only local event of its kind, although other families and individuals volunteer to raise money for the foundation, said Allison Brenckle, program director.
Carnival-goers can sign up to join Mariah's Movers, a team that will participate in the 2013 Arthritis Walk on June 1 at SouthSide Works mall.
Last year, Mariah was a walk honoree, and her carnival and walk team raised $3,200 for the foundation, Aquino said.
A 2007 study by the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that 294,000 children, or 1 in 250, have arthritis or other rheumatologic conditions.
“Our mission is to let people know that children get arthritis, too,” Aquino said.
Mariah began to experience pain in her hips in May 2011, but her mother thought it was the result of a fall at a neighbor's home.
Aquino took Mariah to a pediatrician twice, and after an X-ray revealed a 13 percent curvature in Mariah's spine, the doctor referred her to the orthopedic department at Children's Hospital.
Doctors in the rheumatology department at Children's diagnosed her with juvenile arthritis.
“We were lucky that it was arthritis, except for the lifelong sentence,” Aquino said.
Mariah's treatment includes weekly medication to reduce inflammation, and a folic acid pill and a series of vitamins daily.
She is most likely to experience pain and swollen fingers and toes in the mornings, Aquino said.
The medical field doesn't know what causes juvenile arthritis, but a combination of genetics and the environment seem most likely, said Sarah Poff, who is Mariah's doctor and a rheumatology fellow at Children's Hospital.
The most common type of childhood arthritis, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis involves at least six weeks of persistent arthritis in a child younger than 16, Poff said.
Symptoms include persistent joint swelling, pain and stiffness that is worse in the mornings or after a nap, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Among Pennsylvania's regions, Western Pennsylvania seems to have a high prevalence of the disease, Brenckle said.
About 3,000 children have been diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis in the region, or 25 percent of the statewide total. Still, the Western Pennsylvania number may include West Virginia patients who travel to the region because that state doesn't have pediatric rheumatologists, she said.
Today, Mariah is an active child who loves writing and showcasing her musical talents with her best friend and sister, Mauriauna, 8.
“She's the nicest sister on the planet,” Mauriauna said.
Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or firstname.lastname@example.org.