The Arthritis Society honoured members of the Western community this week, presenting a Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry team with a plaque for being the city’s top fundraising group in the annual Walk to Fight Arthritis.
This year’s event, a 1K and 5K walk that took place last month at TD Waterhouse Stadium, raised roughly $46,000. Among the 38 fundraising teams across London, students, staff and faculty from Schulich came out on top, raking in more than $4,200 as a team. What’s more, Physiology and Pharmacology professor Frank Beier was among the top three individual fundraisers in the city.
Across Canada, the event garnered 8,000 participants, raising nearly $1.7 million for arthritis programs and research.
The Schulich team – called Team Bernier: Researchers in Motion – came together in 2011, formed by students and faculty in honour of the late Dr. Suzanne Bernier, a pioneering member of what is now Western’s Bone and Joint Initiative. Bernier was a driving force in the area of cartilage biology and arthritis research at Western, as well as an influential advocate for the arthritis community.
This was Team Bernier’s third year participating. In the previous two years, the group came in second for its fundraising efforts and has, over the past three years, raised more than $16,000 to help the Arthritis Society fund research, advocacy and solutions to improve the quality of life for Canadians affected by arthritis.
“This team was built in (Dr. Bernier’s) memory to kind of get researchers out of the lab, and involved with the public, to talk about their research and take part in raising money, and fund research and different programs, that help the community,” said team member Matt Grol, who is finishing up his PhD in Anatomy and Cell Biology this year. He has been team captain for the last two years.
“The reason that we’re so passionate about this is that this is what we research, this is what we want to find treatment for, but also, along the way, we meet so many people who are involved, who have the conditions and it makes us want to give back to the community,” said Anusha Ratneswaran, a second year Physiology and Pharmacology PhD student and team captain.
Dan Knight, community development manager for the Arthritis Society, Southwest Region, said the team is heavily involved in fundraising efforts each year, praising them for contributing to a worthy cause.
“You can’t see arthritis most of the time; it’s something people don’t want to talk about and it’s something people think comes with age. They think it’s an old-person’s disease. Our youngest patient is 6 months old,” he said. “That’s why it’s important (to raise funds) and why we do this event, to get that awareness out there.
“The money goes to support our programs and services as well as research – it’s hugely beneficial.”
Team Bernier hopes to maintain its success and double the funds raised this year for next year’s walk.