Stress is a common condition among Americans, and, since COVID-19, an uncommon equalizer too. Everyone from celebrities, sports stars and seniors to arthritis sufferers are facing similar coronavirus-related challenges.
Most of us have had our fill of self-isolation, home-schooling and remote work environments, not to mention more “alone time” than we possibly ever imagined.
We all need an escape button.
For the healthiest among us, navigating the quarantine-related isolation and elevated health issues is an extremely troublesome but, hopefully soon, temporary state we can escape.
For arthritis sufferers? Not so much. Accustomed to limited mobility, frequent hospitalization and/or doctor visits and chronic pain, many of the nation’s 92.1 million individuals with doctor-diagnosed arthritis or that report arthritis symptoms are without an easy “off” button.
For the severely immunocompromised and elderly with arthritis, the pressures have intensified exponentially. In addition to the everyday COVID-19 related concerns we all share, they now also must contend with more limited access to healthcare providers, medications and resources.
Healthcare providers and nonprofit organizations like the Arthritis Foundation have stepped up to help. The Foundation is working diligently to help this targeted and at-risk population amidst fierce economic pressures and increased delivery demands.
Together, they created a welcome escape to entertain, educate, and inspire their collective followers. The result was a collaborative “Survive & Thrive: COVID-19 LIVE Celebrity Challenge” Facebook event hosted by American Ninja Warrior television host and M.D., Matt Iseman, who stands among the more than 1.5 million individuals living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in the United States.
“Arthritis has a way of reminding you that you are human,” says Iseman. “It’s the Arthritis Foundation that helps us learn that you are not alone.”
More than 66 percent of people living with arthritis suffer from anxiety and/or depression, according to the foundation.
The effort offered an unusual glimpse inside the everyday lives of football legend Rob “Gronk” Gronkowski and Sports Illustrated cover model Camille Kostek, who have been challenging each other to home dance-offs during their quarantine.
“When all you have is aches, pains, and challenges, it is easy to lose sight of the joy in life, but I’ve learned that pain is something you can recover from. Optimism and positivity can help speed up the process,” says Gronk.
Joined by friends Brian Urlacher, a pro football Hall of Fame linebacker, and fitness trainer to the stars Harley Pasternak, the three donned their hands in two sets of socks in a timed challenge to button a dress shirt.
There weren’t many buttons fastened at the end of the activity, but there was a lot more appreciation of the challenges those with arthritis face. Organizers hope this will translate into funding for support of the effort benefitting those disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.
“We’re calling it COVID-19 crisis funding,” explains Alec Burkin, director of business development for Abacus Health, which offers cannabinoid- and CBD-based products in grocery, pharmacy, and mass merchandise stores across the United States and around the world under name brands including CBDMEDIC.
The effort also included exercise and lifestyle tips from super model Camille Kostek, a cooking demonstration by James Beard Award-winning Chef Ming Tsai and personal call-outs from Abacus Health Products CEO Perry Antelman and Walgreens President Richard Ashworth.
This fund-raising event brought in more than $210,000 on behalf of the Arthritis Foundation and Burkin says he expects that number to continue to grow.
Burkin, who joined Abacus Health as its second employee, says the company has always had a heart for positive organizations and giving back to its communities.
“Much of the Arthritis Foundation’s constituency is concerned about coronavirus,” Burkin says. “We as an executive team had been talking about redirecting all of our marketing funds to public service and health, so we saw this as a great way to align our marketing efforts with a fantastic cause and organization.”
Survive & Thrive was a great event because it brought Gronk’s big personality to the cause, Burkin adds. Abacus Health sought him out as a spokesperson for the brand because of his sports abilities – he played for the New England Patriots before retiring after nine seasons in 2019 – but also because of his personal pain story.
The eve of the Facebook live event coincided with media reports of Gronk’s return to the NFL and is reflective of the spirit of arthritic individuals who strive to live their best lives, despite limitations.
Many, like Gronk, are on the hunt for products that help.
“Gronk has been through many injuries and surgeries and is very open about his own pain journey,” Burkin says of the professional athlete who has learned to manage pain through all-natural solutions.
Burkin says Abacus Health also is committed to continue to spread the word through additional Survive & Thrive events as well as promoting the Arthritis Foundation through its other fund-raising events, such as the May 5 GivingTuesdayNow participation, bringing in additional funds to help the Foundation through the coronavirus and beyond.
“That’s what makes these events so important: We’re talking about not only how to survive but figure out ways to thrive each day,” Burkin said. “We as a company think a lot about the anatomy of pain – sometimes, it is defined as freedom and freedom of movement. What’s better than giving someone the ability to freely move their bodies through pain management? These are the homes we live in every day, so it’s always top of mind for us as a company.”
“People like us hear a lot of no’s,” says Kristen McDonald, who is known as KMAC among her friends at the Arthritis Foundation who have supported her throughout her recovery from Arthritis-related paralysis. “For the past five years, I’ve been quarantined by arthritis.
“When this is over, people are going to have more compassion for the chronically ill and home-bound,” says McDonald.
Editor’s Note: To learn more about the Arthritis Foundation’s coronavirus-related resources visit their COVID-19 Care & Connect page. Interested individuals can still donate to the Survive & Thrive COVID-19: Celebrity Challenge event. For additional information on Abacus Health Products visit their website at: abacushp.com