BANGOR, Maine — Gray skies, dark clouds and intermittent showers failed to keep a record turnout from raising a record amount of money to fund arthritis research, education and support programs Saturday.
Almost 80 people turned out to walk either 1 or 3 miles along the Bangor Waterfront on Saturday morning to raise money and awareness for the Arthritis Foundation.
“The first year we did this, we had 30 people,” said event chairperson Robin Spencer-Laurie. “This year, we’ve raised more money than we did last year. We had more money raised even before people came to do the walk than we did all of last year, with $4,000.”
The current economic stagnation locally and nationwide makes fundraising challenging, but Spencer-Laurie said local businesses help out in a variety of ways.
“It was very hard this year to get sponsors, considering how tough things are economically, but we’ve had a lot of local businesses donate money and materials and food,” she said.
The Walk and the Arthritis Foundation have particular meaning and relevance for Spencer-Laurie, who has been suffering pain on a daily basis from rheumatoid arthritis for the last 49 of her 51 years. She has served as a Bangor Arthritis Walk Ambassador for the last three years.
“One of the purposes as an ambassador is to get word out about the programs and organizations the foundation offers,” she said. “And I’m adamant about letting people know who arthritis affects, the children as well as the adults.”
According to Spencer-Laurie, 1,100 children have been diagnosed with arthritis in Maine.
“That’s in addition to 316,000 adults, and that’s just in this state,” she said. “For the whole United States, I believe it’s 50 million total, and 300,000 of them are children.”
This is the ninth walk for the Deer Isle native, who now resides in Hampden.
“We started out holding this at an elementary school, and this is our second year having it here,” she said. “I think more people get the word out about the walk now, and more people are aware of it now.”