Beverly Hills, Calif. (PRWEB) May 3, 2010
The dreams of children suffering from Juvenile Arthritis (JA) became brighter today with the launch of the Jeffrey Gottfurcht Children’s Arthritis Foundation (JGCAF), a wish-granting organization founded by a young former finance executive who has battled the crippling effects of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an incurable auto immune disease for the past eight years. This month, Bay Area resident Gottfurcht realized his own dream when he embarked on a climb to the summit of Mt. Everest at 29,035 feet, the first-ever ascent by a climber suffering from RA. The approximately six-week trek is being chronicled on the Foundation’s website.
“Suffering from a disease with no known cause—or cure—is heart-wrenching for any individual at any age. When a child suffers, the experience becomes exponentially more profound,” said Jeffrey Gottfurcht, founder of JGCAF. “As I’ve undergone treatment, I’ve witnessed first-hand how the lives of so many children have been put on hold, how their dreams and desires have been stifled. My goal is to help young people suffering from juvenile arthritis to dream again, and by doing so, bring added attention to the disease and the need for a cure.”
More than 300,000 children in the United States suffer from rheumatic diseases. For many, such diagnosis brings lifelong pain, joint destruction, deformity and immobility. For young patients, the ravages of juvenile arthritis are often more severe than those in adults, including loss of mobility as well as organ failure, loss of sight, hearing, and severe digestive difficulties.
“Say arthritis and most people think of an elderly person. It’s a misunderstood disease—which is why the needs and desires of children suffering from it are often overlooked,” added Gottfurcht, the father of three young children. “JGCAF’s mission is to change that.”
Mt. Everest Dreaming
Gottfurcht, together with a guide and Sherpa, arrived in Kathmandu the first of April for the start of the historic climb. Via periodic email messages to the Foundation, together with a video, Gottfurcht is chronicling his long-held dream of climbing Mt. Everest.
A climber since his late teens—well before his RA diagnosis—Gottfurcht has conquered other mountains, including Mt. Elbrus (Russia | 18,500 feet), Mt. Rainer (Washington State | 14,400 feet) and Pico de Orizaba (Mexico | 18,400 feet). Due to severe joint pain and immobility, Gottfurcht had not been able to climb for the past two years and in 2009, with his symptoms significantly advanced, he learned that he would be functionally immobile within a few years.
In order to realize his own dream and prepare for the climb, Gottfurcht focused on endurance, flexibility and high altitude preparedness over the past six months. He also managed to live prescription-free, as drug therapy would be prohibitive during the climb at high altitudes.
“Getting to the Summit is the ultimate dream—but it’s also one that has so many variables, with weather being the biggest. Completing the training and embarking on the journey is my dream,” said Gottfurcht.
Dream Big, Dream Now
Dream requests received in late 2009 and early 2010 as the Foundation was being formed reflect the quiet spirit of many of the children afflicted with juvenile arthritis—the majority of the 100+ requests received to date are for assistance with educational costs, followed by help with medical costs and assistance to offset household hardships, like the loss of a car or internet service that resulted from hardship brought on by the family’s escalating health costs. Other wishes asked for help in obtaining computer equipment that would provide the child with better visibility or mobility, such as a big screen computer or Wii system “Frivolous dreams are certainly a possibility and we’re open to those—but the reality is kids with arthritis are sensitive and self-aware. We’re working hard to raise funds to be able to grant as many wishes as possible,” added Gottfurcht.
Children age 4 to 21 afflicted with juvenile arthritis are eligible for a “wish grant”. Wish referrals for children can be sent to the Foundation by a person on the child’s medical “team” (doctor, nurse, social worker or child-life specialist), as well as a parent, sibling or legal guardian. A child with juvenile arthritis may send in their dream request directly. After JGCAF receives the dream request, the Foundation contacts the child’s treating physician to determine if the child is medically eligible for the requested wish.
To help grant dreams and provide strategic direction to the Foundation, JGCAF has recruited a Dream Board, including:
- Karen Ager - Author and tenured teacher at the United Nations International School; diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at age 17
- Lisa Armijo - Mother of a child afflicted with JA and magazine publisher
- John D. Gottfurcht - Founder of SSI Investment Management, Inc.
- Stuart H. Kaplan, MD - leading dermatologist and creator of kaplanMD Skincare
- Richard Lebowitz, MD, FACS-Assoc. Prof. Otolaryngology- NYU School of Medicine; Att. Phys.- NYU Langone Medical Ctr., Bellevue Hosp. and the Manahttan VA Medical Ctr.
- Laura Ling - Vice President, Current TV’s Emmy-nominated “Vanguard” series
- Lisa Ling - Field Correspondent, The Oprah Winfrey Show; Contributor, ABC News' Nightline and National Geographic’s Explorer
- Brittany Lovett - Producer & Animator
- Katherine Marzan, MD - Attending Pediatric Rheumatologist, Division of Rheumatology, Childrens Hospital Los Angeles
- Andre Poulin - 20+ year NBC Today Show veteran
- Andreas Reiff, MD - Division Head, Division of Rheumatology Childrens Hospital Los Angeles
The Jeffrey Gottfurcht Children’s Arthritis Foundation was founded by Jeffrey Gottfurcht as a way to inspire, educate and generate awareness of both rheumatoid and juvenile idiopathic arthritis, as those suffering optimistically await a cure. Eight years ago at the age of 28, Gottfurcht was diagnosed with RA and after undergoing years of treatment; he wanted to share his determination to fight the disease while bringing joy, strength and support to children and young adults similarly afflicted. A wish-granting Foundation, JGCAF accepts referrals for dreams from parents, guardians, siblings, members of the medical community, and directly from children suffering from juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. The Foundation’s Dream Team helps select dreams that are prudent and possible and assists in making them come true. For more information please call 310.855.3745 or visit http://www.JGCAF.org.
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