Color run benefits juvenile arthritis

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Mineola Elementary School had its second annual Reindeer Color Run on Friday, Dec. 13. Students who collected $5 or more in donations were able to participate in the 1-mile run.  They raised over $2,300 to donate to the Arthritis Foundation.

MES plans to have the run yearly, honoring a student who gets to choose where the funds go. Last year it went to a local nonprofit.

This year, run honoree Hunter Ballard chose the Arthritis Foundation as the recipient in support of his little sister Avery, who suffers from juvenile arthritis.

This summer, because of intense knee pain, Hunter’s parents, Nicole and Robbie Ballard, thought that he too had developed juvenile arthritis.

While playing at the Baseball World Series game in July, his knee pain got so bad that he could hardly walk. 

In August, the Ballards took Hunter to a rheumatologist who ruled out arthritis, but in September, he was diagnosed with osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) of the knees.

OCD occurs when small pieces of bone and cartilage in a part of a joint separate from bone around it. It is most common in the knee joint, as in Hunter’s case. 

Overuse of a joint and repeated stress make a child more likely to develop OCD, and children who are athletes are more often afflicted than non-athletes. It’s most common in boys ages 10-16 and may be genetic.

The symptoms of joint soreness, swelling, pain, stiffness and limping are often confused with arthritis.

The goal is to heal the joint without surgery if possible. Once diagnosed, patients are put on a six-month rest with no physical activity as Hunter has been. For an active 10 year old boy, it has been torturous. 

“He hasn’t handled it well,” says his mom, Nicole. “He’s sad about not playing baseball.”

Hunter has been dedicated to baseball since he was very young. He started playing at four years old and has been playing travel ball as a catcher since he was six. Now, the only thing he has ever really enjoyed has been taken away from him. 

Hunter goes back to the doctor in February to see if the six-month rest has been successful. Nicole says she has seen improvements, but his knees still occasionally give out and he falls. He says his knees feel like Jello and like they’re bruised.

In February, if his knees are healed, he won’t have to endure surgery, but if they aren’t, he’ll have surgery on both knees.

Once his knees are healed, Hunter can return to his beloved baseball, but he will not be a catcher again.

Because of the trauma to the knee joints, the chance of him developing arthritis is significantly higher. 

This scare has made Hunter keenly aware of what his sister deals with daily, and that is why he has chosen to send 100% of the money raised from the run to the arthritis foundation.

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