CROWN POINT | May is National Arthritis Month, and one Crown Point family has a special reason for wanting to raise awareness and find a cure.
Rick and Melissa Guerra and their children Marissa, 10, Mateo, 6, and John, 5, have formed Team John John to participate in Friday's Chicago Walk to Cure Arthritis, set for 8:30 p.m. at Lincoln Park, Grove 16 at Montrose Beach.
Their inspiration is kindergartner John Guerra, who was diagnosed at 3 with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, a condition that causes painful arthritic attacks for which there is no cure, and only limited relief with medication and a gluten-free diet.
"Our goal is to raise $2,500, and we have about 30 people walking," said Melissa Guerra, who hopes to fund arthritis research as well as send John and his family to the Arthritis Foundation's Juvenile Arthritis Conference in Keystone, Col., July 3-6.
"The more money we raise, we can use for traveling expenses for the conference, which will have educational programs on issues related to parents, teens and children," Guerra added.
Donations can also be made at Chicago.WalktoCureArthritis.kintera.org/mychica02, at any Centier Bank to an account set up for "Team John John," or to John John's www.gofundme.com/team-john-john account.
"Anything would help out so much," Guerra said, "even leaving encouraging words on John' webpage for him.
"Through it all John has been such a little trooper. He has such an amazing loving spirit and a smile that lights up any room, and a personality that people are just naturally drawn to."
With three days left until the walk, Team John John had raised $1,570 in pledges, and Melissa Guerra said his classmates are planning to wear blue shirts to school Friday in support of John and the Arthritis Foundation.
"With all the pain our little 5-year-old boy has endured, something good has to come out of it," she added.