SCARSDALE, N.Y. – When she was 6 years old and arthritis pain rocked her joints, Scarsdale’s Danielle Dechiario could not envision running three pain free steps, never mind three pain free miles.
On Saturday, the Scarsdale High Senior will do just that at Purchase College. Dechiario is the Young Adult Honoree for the Jingle Bell Run/Walk for Arthritis, a 5-kilometer race to fight arthritis. Proceeds benefit the Arthritis Foundation. People can register on race day beginning at 8:30 a.m.
Dechiario is a shining example of how to fight arthritis, physically and mentally. Dechiario gave up a lot of activities after she was diagnosed – “I hit rock bottom when I was young,’’ she said – but through medication, mental resolve and the support of her family and friends, she has fought back to do everything she dreamed.
“No one can comprehend the struggle that I went through,’’ Dechiario said. “I’ve proven the statistics wrong. I can do things. I’m a normal child, I just have arthritis. It doesn’t define who I am. It makes me have this passion to do the things that I want.”
Dechiario was also the honoree at the 2008 race in Purchase. This year is the first time that she will run in the race. She was the volleyball captain this fall, and helped the team win 25 games and reach the Sectional semifinals.
“I think I have much more appreciation for what the foundation does,’’ Dechiario said. “Now that I’m older, I’m able to share my story and the experiences that I’ve been through. I know where people are coming from when they relate their stories because I’ve been there. I’m thrilled to be honoree this year.”
Dechiario has embraced the fundraising mission of the Arthritis Foundation, and has recruited 33 other friends for her Team Victorious. Readers can support Dechiario by making a donation through her fundraising page.
Dechiario reflects to her younger years, when she visited “tons of doctors” to help her determine the source of her pain. “I was young and none of my friends had the same problem,’’ she said. “I didn’t know what was going on.”
She has come a long way since, and now she accepts with pride the duties of a role model to younger children to show them how arthritis can be fought with determination, passion and fearlessness.
“I am so happy that I have a group of friends and a loving family,’’ she said. “They’ve guided me. You can’t let one flaw or one problem get the best of you. That’s what I want to be a role model for. I’m just Danielle from Scarsdale High School. If anything, I hope people can connect with my story. I can understand their struggle. It’s not something to be ashamed of. If you have a supportive family and good friends, you’ll be OK.”