Imagine a five-year-old with two casts on his legs and a walker for getting around.
Logan Graham remembers sitting on the sidelines and longing to play basketball, baseball – or any sport. Suffering from severe juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, following a diagnosis at age four, the now 17-year-old Oak Bay high school graduate looks back on how those experiences helped shape his gritty determination.
“I was going to either succumb to it, let it gain control of me or (I was going) to master it,” Graham said of his disease. “I learned to help myself in order to help others.”
Despite 10 operations on his knees, surgery on his jaw, thumb and elbow as well as a host of other treatments, Graham says he has lived a blessed life and is grateful for opportunities afforded him despite his challenges.
When he recognized many children with similar conditions didn’t have the help he was afforded, he and his family started the Children’s Arthritis Foundation. Ten years and $150,000 in donations later, Graham’s efforts have been recognized with a UCBeyond scholarship, which is given to 16 students across Canada who excel despite dealing with inflammatory arthritis.
“The scholarship takes my mind off paying the bills and helps me focus on doing things I always loved to do, things I am passionate about,” said Graham, studying business at the University of British Columbia. “It not only gave me $5,000, it gave me a huge opportunity … I began to see university as a platform where I will really get into campaigning for kids, and going through the foundation to advocate for kids who can’t advocate for themselves.”
It is that selflessness that has impressed Ross Petty, professor of pediatrics in rheumatology at UBC, who believes the foundation was always about children with arthritis – and not just about Logan.
“I am eternally amazed how kids put up with the misery of this disease,” Petty said. “But it doesn’t conquer them, they conquer it and are able to do things many able-bodied kids don’t … (Logan) will make a wave in this world.”
The foundation helps with everything from getting supportive shoes and food vouchers to helping fund research.
“He speaks with such conviction. He has the advocacy impulse in him… He is a very impressive person,” Petty said. “I think we need more people like Logan and his family to accelerate the research for better treatment and cures.”
In the meantime, Graham continues his studies at UBC working towards a business degree he hopes will help him to help others.
“Arthritis doesn’t define who I am. I decided not to tell anyone about my arthritis because I didn’t want to be seen as the arthritis kid, I wanted to appear to be normal,” Graham said. “Those kids don’t want to be seen like that, all they want is to be seen as normal.”