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7-year-old from Aroostook County chosen as youth ambassador for Bangor Arthritis Walk

Contributed by Russell family | BDN
Contributed by Russell family | BDN
The Russells of Smyrna are participating in the 10th annual Bangor Arthritis Walk on Saturday, May 12. Callie (far left), the oldest daughter of Kilby and Ashley Russell, will serve as youth ambassador for the walk. Callie, 7, has suffered from juvenile rheumatoid arthritis since the age of 14 months. Shown with Callie are Kilby, Ashley, sister Tessa and brother Ryder.

SMYRNA, Maine — For as long as she can remember, Callie Russell has felt different than other children her age. While her friends and classmates can spend hours running on the playground, Callie sometimes finds it is too painful to keep up.

The 7-year-old daughter of Ashley and Kilby Russell, Callie was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis at the age of 14 months. Callie was chosen to be a Youth Ambassador Honoree for the 10th annual Bangor Arthritis Walk on Saturday, May 12.

“It will be Callie’s third year participating in the walk, but it will be the first year that she is well enough to be able to walk in it,” said Ashley Russell. “We pushed her in a stroller the first two times.”

Callie had raised $888 for the walk as of Thursday morning, but her goal is to reach $1,000 by May 12.

The walk begins at 10 a.m. at the Sea Dog Brewing Company restaurant at 26 Front St. in Bangor.

“Arthritis is a disease that I have had since I was a baby,” Callie said. “It bothers my feet and ankles, and sometimes my wrists and elbows and knees. Sometimes it hurts to run and play sports. When I get up in the morning it hurts to move my joints because they are stiff and it is hard to walk.”

Callie’s condition is the same as rheumatoid arthritis in adults. She suffers from stiff, swollen joints, which often require hot baths in the morning just to get the joints moving again.

“She has had numerous injections over the years and has lost a lot of range of motion,” Ashley Russell said. “She gets a shot every third week.”

Her parents knew something was not quite right with their daughter shortly after her first birthday when they noticed her left knee was swollen. Her doctor was not immediately concerned, but after several visits to both the doctor’s office and emergency room, the Russells were referred to an orthopedic specialist.

Callie’s condition grew progressively worse by the time she saw the specialist.

“She was crying every morning and wanted to be carried all the time,” Ashley Russell said. “When she did walk, she walked with a noticeable limp.”

After undergoing numerous tests, all of which came back inconclusive, the Russells took their daughter to an out-of-state hospital where she was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.

“Callie is such a happy-go-lucky kid,” Ashley Russell said. “Fatigue does become a big part of it. People see her running and playing and think she must be fine. What they don’t see is she can only do it for so long and then she is wiped right out.”

Callie is the oldest of three children for the Russells. She has a brother, Ryder, 6, and sister, Tessa, 9 months. She loves to swim, ride her bike and her pony.

To make a donation to Callie for the walk, visit Her name is listed on the right-hand side as one of the top five fundraisers. Donations may also be mailed to her at P.O. Box 92, Smyrna 04780. Checks must be made out to the Arthritis Foundation.

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