WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — As an advocacy ambassador for the Arthritis Foundation, Erin O’Rourke was used to rallying support for her cause when she wasn’t working for David Lerner Associates in White Plains.
So when the Long Island resident had the opportunity to speak before Congress about the need for research funding to prevent cases of post-traumatic osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis in military personnel, she jumped at it.
This past June, O'Rourke stated her case at a hearing of the defense subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Appropriations.
"While working on my regular advocacy assignment, I contacted the office of Hawaiian Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, and I was invited to go to the hearing," she said. "Mark Haubner, another advocate, and I, went before the committee to talk about how heavy the backpacks are for people in the military, and there's a lot coming out now that relates them to arthritis."
O'Rourke was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in her hands and fingers 12 years ago and joined the Arthritis Foundation soon after she learned it made her twice as likely to develop heart disease and diabetes. Both diseases have led to shortened life spans.
Since O'Rourke first started participating in the annual Arthritis Foundation Walk in 2002, she has raised almost $30,000. Without the help of her colleagues at David Lerner Associates, though, she said that wouldn't have been possible.
"If it wasn't for the people here, I wouldn't have raised that amount of money."
When asked about her ultimate goal as a member of the Arthritis Foundation, O'Rourke said it is to raise awareness for the risks of arthritis.
"People don't have a clue because it's not up there with diseases like heart disease and cancer, but it should be," O'Rourke said.