CAMP Footloose is the highlight of the year for teenager Alyssa Pensini.
One in 1000 Australians has juvenile arthritis.
More than 30 of them, including Alyssa, will be at a NSW Central Coast camp from September 26 to 30.
Camp Footloose, an Arthritis and Osteoporosis NSW initiative, gives children with juvenile arthritis the chance to have fun and achieve personal success in sport and other outdoor activities at their own pace.
This will be Alyssa’s second camp.
“Everyone knows what it’s like [to have juvenile arthritis],” she said.
“There is no judgment and we are all in the same boat.”
Alyssa has made friendships through the camp.
“I’m really excited,” she said.
“I’ve been waiting for this the whole year.”
Alyssa, 16, was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis at the age of 11.
She takes daily medication and has regular injections and blood tests.
Juvenile arthritis is a serious, persistent medical condition of childhood.
Many forms of arthritis, including juvenile arthritis, are believed to be the result of the immune system losing its ability to tell the difference between good and bad cells.
This means the body attacks healthy cells in, for example, its own joints.
How juvenile develops, parts of the body affected, and ways in which it is treated can be quite different to adult forms of arthritis.
Alyssa and her dad Nathan would like to see heightened community awareness about juvenile arthritis.
They also believe more funding is needed for research and awareness campaigns.
Arthritis and Osteoporosis NSW chief executive officer Sandra Vincent said there was a general lack of awareness about the prevalence of arthritis in young people.
She said Camp Footloose was a place where the youngsters were accepted and understood. The camp is the only one of its kind in NSW.
Arthritis and Osteoporosis NSW relies on donations and fundraising. Donations to the children’s camps can be made at www.arthritisnsw.org.au/donation or Go Fundraise.