However, last year, Ryann's family began to take action in advocating for her disease and spreading awareness about a condition that some days leaves her paralyzed. By creating a team for the Northeastern New York chapter of the National Arthritis Foundation, the Hotalings are able to raise money for the foundation, which helps those suffering from arthritis, and educate those who know little about the disease.
This year, Ryann has been given the title of 2008 Northeastern New York Child Honoree.
Her mother said Ryann's team, called "Ryann's Roses," has set a goal to have 100 people walk at the Arthritis Walk, scheduled for May 10, and to raise between $58,000 and $60,000 for the foundation. Casey and her husband, Chad, owners of downtown Albany's Pearl and Envy Lounge, are confident that by the time of the walk, they will have met those goals.
Ryann has support from several places, including her Daisy Girl Scout troupe.
Jackie Bellinger, Ryann's Daisy Troupe Leader, as well as neighbor and family friend, said that while the Girl Scout organization will not allow its members to participate in any fundraising event, many of the girls will be walking as Ryann's friends.
"I personally think it's important because I think [her parents] are trying to teach her how to be proactive in her own life with this, and they're starting it at an early age, which I think is great. My husband is actually sponsoring the team and making the T-shirts," said Bellinger.
Rainbow Doemel, director of development for the northeastern New York chapter of the Arthritis Foundation, said that Ryann was selected as this year's honoree because of her vibrant personality and enthusiasm toward life.
"She's got a great smile and a great outlook even though she's in pain," said Doemel, "Being 5 and wanting to play and run, it is very hard for her."