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Five-year-old living with juvenile arthritis raises thousands for charity walk

Posted at 4:35 PM, Jun 02, 2024

ALLOUEZ (NBC 26) — Kiana Knoespel was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis at three and a half years old. She and her family raised more than $20,000 for the Walk to Cure Arthritis Sunday.

  • The Walk to Cure Arthritis benefits Arthritis Foundation Wisconsin
  • A five-year-old girl was honored at the walk on Sunday morning at Green Isle Park in Allouez
  • See the team determined to "kick it," with Kiana in the video above

(The following is a transcription of the full broadcast story.)

A little girl with arthritis shares her story. I'm Pari Apostolakos in Allouez, where the Walk to Cure Arthritis was held Sunday morning.

"My legs hurt sometimes," five-year-old Kiana Knoespel said. She was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis at three-and-a-half.

At first, her mother Sheena says, they thought she had growing pains.

"I have to get shots and they make me scared," Kiana said to the crowd before Sunday's walk. "But, if I [don't] do my shots, my legs [will] hurt more."

Kiana and her family started a team called "Kickin' it with Keeks," for this year's Walk to Cure Arthritis.

They ended up raising more than $20,000.

"It's just the invisibility of the disease, that is, we're trying to get the word out. It's hard because they see her and people see her running and think she's a normal kiddo," Sheena said. "And they see, really a kid that just wants to run and play. [But] her body gets really tired."

On top of her medications, Kiana uses heating pads and takes naps at school to get through the day.

Her doctor, rheumatologist Paul Tuttle, says about 6,000 children in Wisconsin suffer from juvenile arthritis.

"It feels very rewarding to see her responding to the medication and becoming more functional to do things like this walk today, and then just the family support that she has is unbelievable," Dr. Tuttle said.

According to Arthritis Foundation Wisconsin, money raised by Kiana's supporters and the other walkers will go toward a camp for children living with juvenile arthritis, research, and programs for adults living with arthritis.

As of Sunday morning, more than $66,000 has been raised for Arthritis Foundation Wisconsin. In Allouez, Pari Apostolakos NBC 26.