A New Castle toddler has been selected as a 2006 Arthritis Walk child honoree.

The New Castle Arthritis Walk will take place at at 11 a.m. Sept. 30 at Pearson Park.

Bridget Fitzgerald, 3, daughter of Dennis and Amy Fitzgerald, was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis at the age of 2. At first, doctors did not know what was wrong with her. She had a swollen big toe, which lasted for several weeks, but it was not until Bridget was referred to an orthopedic surgeon that she was properly diagnosed.

"The doctor took one look at Bridget's knee and knew what it was," Amy Fitzgerald said. "He immediately referred her to a pediatric rheumatologist."

Unfortunately, by the time Bridget saw the surgeon, her knee had begun to swell and there was permanent damage in her toe.

Bridget does not let her arthritis get her down. She has been prescribed medicine that helps to control her symptoms. She loves to play with her baton, and when her arthritis does flair up, she will tell her parents, "Please hold me. My knees hurt."

In the coming months, Bridget will be taken off her medicine in the hope that her arthritis goes into remission. It is a waiting game for Bridget and her parents. However, according to Amy Fitzgerald, life consists not in holding good cards, but in playing those you hold well.

That is why she and her husband feel so strongly about supporting the Arthritis Foundation and letting others know about the impact of arthritis on children.

"It has been a long, hard battle on her little body but she has handled it like the tough little cookie she was born to be," the couple writes on the Arthritis Foundation Web site. "There is not much we can do for her except be there for her through her appointments, her bloodwork and through her medications. Bridget is doing great at this stage and for that we thank God daily."

The couple realizes, though, that not all children are doing as well as their daughter.

"There are so many other children out there who need so much more then Bridget needs and research is the key to helping them," they write. "That is where you and I can help. The Arthritis Foundation has asked Bridget to be the honoree at their New Castle Arthritis Walk. The money they raise will go to the much-needed research which will help the doctors keep the children off of crutches, out of wheelchairs and alive."

The Fitzgeralds are asking for donations to be made in Bridget's name to the Arthritis Foundation.

To make an online donation, log on to ArthritisWalkNewCastle.kintera.org, then click on the link for Amy Fitzgerald's team.

Hosted by the Arthritis Foundation, Western Pennsylvania Chapter, the purpose of the Arthritis Walk is to raise funds and awareness to fight arthritis, the nation's leading cause of disability. Participants walk in honor of a friend or family member with arthritis.

The event features both a three-mile and one-mile course with prizes and activities for the entire family and awards for the top fundraisers. There is no registration fee, but participants are urged to raise money to support the Arthritis Foundation--iacute;s mission. Participants who raise $100 or more receive a 2006 Arthritis Walk T-shirt.

For more information on registering or forming a team, log on to ArthritisWalkNewCastle.kintera.org or call (800) 522-9900, ext. 17.

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