Chelsea girl battles arthritis with lemonade stand sales

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 29, 2006

When life threw a Chelsea three-year-old lemons, she and her family decided to make lemonade, literally.

Delaney Casselman, daughter of Jennifer and Brad Casselman, was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis at age two. Earlier this month, she hosted a lemonade stand to raise money and awareness to help other kids in Alabama with the disorder.

&8220;She just woke up one morning and could not walk. Her knee was twice its normal size,&8221; said Jennifer.

In the beginning the diagnosis was hard for the Casselmans to accept. The couple said they believed arthritis only affected the elderly.

&8220;I will never forget the day she was diagnosed, we were in shock,&8221; said Brad, an employee of Blue Cross and Blue Shield. Jennifer added, &8220;We were in denial for a while. I did not even know that kids could get arthritis. I could not help but wonder, why my child? Why now&8221;?

Since being diagnosed a year ago, Delaney has undergone a small procedure for her knee. However, she still has rough times.

&8220;She doesn&8217;t know she has this disease called arthritis, she only knows that her knee is sometimes swollen and hurts,&8221; said Jennifer.

While Delaney sees a local orthopedist, her family still has to travel regularly to Atlanta to see a pediatric rheumatologist.

The Casselmans say they were shocked to learn that Alabama does not have a specialist to treat the thousands of children in the state with arthritis.

That is why the family decided to become involved with the local Arthritis Foundation chapter.

&8220;The more we have come involved with the foundation, the more we want to help children in our state,&8221; said Jennifer. &8220;This lemonade stand is not just for Delaney, it&8217;s for all children who are affected by this painful disease and need care from a specialist.&8221;

Money raised from the Aug. 19 lemonade stand will go towards the foundation&8217;s Alabama Juvenile Arthritis Initiative&8217;s goal is to bring a pediatric rheumatology program to the state. The Casselmans say having a local specialist would avoid many undiagnosed or misdiagnosed cases that result in permanent joint damage.

The Arthritis Foundation, Alabama chapter is located at 2700 Highway 280 E, Suite 180, Birmingham, AL 35223 and can be reached at 800-879-7896