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The Arthritis Foundation’s annual Taste of the Town is one of the most anticipated events of the year, and supporters were invited recently to gather at BMW Santa Barbara for a special kickoff and auction marking the 33rd event.

Dr. Graham Hurvitz of the Ryu Hurvitz Orthopedic Clinic was an honored guest to draw attention to important causes and help promote the upcoming culinary benefit to be held Sept. 7 at the Riviera Park Gardens.

“The Arthritis Foundation is dedicated to funding research for a cure for arthritis and related diseases, as well as education programs, juvenile arthritis activities and support and advocacy,” Executive Director Asher Garfinkel said.

The Arthritis Foundation strives to improve the lives of nearly 53 million adults and 300,000 children with arthritis by intensifying efforts in advocacy, research and juvenile arthritis.

“It’s a huge misconception that arthritis is experienced by old people only — actually, two-thirds of those with arthritis are under the age of 65,” Garfinkel said. “And we send many of these children to medically supervised camps, which helps them to learn how to manage their illness, as well as to build confidence and build lifelong friendships.”

The program is Camp Esperanza, offering donors an opportunity to change a life by sending a child to camp with interactive experiences that allow children to realize they are not alone in dealing with the disease.

Los Olivos eighth-grader Kendall Viera was 6 years old when she was playing in a bounce house at a friend’s party and hurt her finger. The injury triggered a flare-up of pain in her body and she was referred to specialists at UCLA, who determined she had juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.

“I used to have to soak her in the bathtub every morning to get her to move. It was tragic as a 6-year-old child,” mother Pam Viera said.

Kendall initially didn’t want her siblings to know of her condition and found it hard to tell her best friend, too. Since then, at age 9, she has gone to Washington, D.C., to speak to Congress about a cure for arthritis to help kids live pain free.

“Some of these children have the pain and disability of 90-year-olds, and sometimes they can’t even be children because they’re in such pain. They miss school, their friends look at them differently and confidence is an issue,” Garfinkel said. “And, of course, it costs so much for these families for medication.”

Another upcoming event is the Arthritis Bike Classic, where cyclists of all experience levels ride 520 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles over eight days from Sept. 13-20. A unique moment of the ride is the option to meet children with juvenile arthritis along the way.

Osteroarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease, is a breakdown of a joint’s cartilage causing bones to rub against each other and is the most common form of arthritis with one in two adults developing symptoms during their lifetime. OA affects 27 million Americans with an annual cost of $22.6 billion to the U.S. health-care system. Ways to treat OA include stretching of joints with low-impact exercise and a healthy weight.

More than 1,000 guests are expected to attend the signature Taste of the Town event on Sept. 7 for food, wine and live entertainment with 40 of Santa Barbara’s finest restaurants and wineries. Rheumatologist Dr. Timothy Speigel will be the event’s medical honoree with Arthritis Foundation Advisory Board member and KEYT-TV anchor CJ Ward the emcee along with K-LITE radio morning host Catherine Remak.

A limited VIP Connoisseurs’ Circle with a four-course gourmet dinner will also occur on Sept. 5.

For information about the Taste of the Town Santa Barbara event or to become a sponsor or purchase tickets, click here to visit the website or call 805.563.4685.

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at mwalker@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at mwalker@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.