Cure Arthritis Ambassadors

At the Arthritis National Research Foundation we are honored to have a team of influential Cure Arthritis Ambassadors out sharing the message that research is the key to finding a cure. Each ambassador has taken the time to build a platform in their community to raise arthritis awareness. They are using their voice to help in the fight to cure arthritis and we invite you to join them! To qualify as a Cure Arthritis Ambassador you need:


  • A commitment to arthritis research
  • A platform to share your efforts
  • The ability to demonstrate your involvement (Blog, Video, Speaking, etc.)
  • A personal connection to arthritis
  • To share in ANRF’s mission
  • Communication to ANRF about your activities in the fight to Cure Arthritis


What you receive as a Cure Arthritis Ambassador:

  • A Cure Arthritis Action Pak
  • Inside information about all that is happening with ANRF
  • Backing from ANRF for your events (subject to approval)
  • Support team of influential ambassadors
  • Your ideas will be heard and efforts recognized by the arthritis community

Ambassadors are nominated by ANRF and often from members of the Cure Arthritis Crew. Read about the crew or contact us with any questions you may have.


Cure Arthritis Crew


If you’d like to be a part of what we do at the Arthritis National Research Foundation, we’d love for you to join the Cure Arthritis Crew! Crew members pledge their support to raise awareness and help in the fight to #CureArthritis! Click here to read more!

Cure Arthritis Ambassadors | Britt and Aimee

Ambassadors Aimée Matsumoto and Britt Johnson

Meet The Cure Arthritis Ambassadors

Emily Akin
Fox 26 TV News Reporter


Emily Akin has been a TV news reporter for 35 years and has covered many major local, national and international stories. She currently works for the local FOX station in Houston as the station’s Consumer Reporter. She gives a voice to people who need help.


Emily is also a triathlete. She was diagnosed with RA three years ago. But the diagnosis hasn’t stopped her from competing in Sprint and Olympic distance triathlons. She recently completed the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon as part of the Racing for a Cure team. And to further show her support she joined fellow Racing For A Cure team members, Lou, Paul and Sabrina to raise awareness in Houston area with Run For Wellness Free 5K, headed up by Lou Casteel.


Emily’s motto through her journey has now become “Move to Keep Moving”. “I had no idea so many people suffered from Rheumatoid Arthritis until I became public about my RA diagnosis. Nor did I realize how much is being done to find a cure for the disease. I want to be part of the effort to find a cure and to create awareness of how it impacts people’s lives.”


Read more about Emily Akin and her story. Or connect with Emily on Facebook!

Mallory Blackwelder
LPGA Professional


Mallory Blackwelder, LPGA Tour Pro, Big Break alumnus and rheumatoid arthritis advocate, has pledged a portion of her winnings this season to support arthritis research with the Arthritis National Research Foundation.


For every birdie and eagle Mallory makes during a tournament, she will donate $5 and $10, respectively, for research. At the Arthritis National Research Foundation, where at least 91 cents of every dollar donated is placed into research programs, every dollar goes a long way.


“Rheumatoid arthritis has changed my life,” says Mallory, age 26. “But I’m not going to let it stop me from pursuing and living my dream as a professional on the LPGA tour. If I can help and/or inspire others along the way, it’s all been worth it!”


Read more about Mallory Blackwelder and her story.

Megan Cavallari


Megan is a world renown composer with more than a 100 film scores as performer, arranger, conductor, or composer; the official composer of the L.A. Kings for ten seasons; 25 television shows; 16 stage musicals; and hundreds of songs, jingles, and assorted musical offerings have earned her respect, acclaim, multiple professional awards, and a reputation as someone who seemingly creates and produces music in every waking moment of a 37 hour day.


She is a committed to being an ambassador and finding a cure because her 11 year old daughter Shoshana has had juvenile idiopathic arthritis since she was 1 1/2. Shoshana also developed uveitis a “sister” disease to JIA a few years after her initial diagnosis. Shoshana lives with chronic pain everyday.


Shoshana has to take medicines every day and gets 2 shots on the weekends. She’s been through chemo, infusions and many drugs that did not work for her. Sometimes she is in a wheelchair when her exhaustion and pain are too much.


But sometimes even worse than the medicine and the pain is that Shoshana hates being different than the other kids in her school. She can’t participate in gym and the other kids ask why. Adults don’t even believe she has arthritis because they don’t know that kids can get arthritis. 300,000 children have it this terrible disease and 8 states do not even have doctors who can work with these kids.


“I want to be involved because kids like my Shoshana don’t deserve this pain. I hope there is a cure for these children who live in pain and it’s through research like that funded by the Arthritis National Research Foundation that we will find it!”


More coming soon about Megan Cavallari, Shoshana and their story.

Nicole Dalton

Nicole Dalton
Founder of Comedy For A Cure | #CureArthritis


More coming soon about Nicole.

Aimee Matsumoto

Aimée Matsumoto (Espinoza)
Blogger, Racing For A Cure Athlete


Aimée Matsumoto aka FitAimee is a blogger, fitness junkie, lover of food and passionate about bringing awareness to Rheumatoid Arthritis. Aimée had her first symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis at the age of 16 however, her doctor misdiagnosed her; ten painful years later, she was properly diagnosed. Because of her confusing journey, Aimée’s mission is to help raise awareness and educate others about Rheumatoid Arthritis as well as be an inspiration to those who are battling RA. Through social media she has shown that despite having a crippling disease, an active lifestyle is still attainable through proper diet and determination. It is possible to have an autoimmune disease and still be active.


Aimée decided that a clean diet was absolutely necessary to reach her own goals of an active lifestyle and to help manage her pain associated with RA. She came to the decision to eat anti-inflammatory foods, because medications prescribed by her doctor left her with terrible side effects that only made her RA symptoms worse.


She hopes that one day a cure will be found for all autoimmune disease. The next goal on her list is to train for a marathon and to eventually qualify for the Boston Marathon.


“To me, being an ambassador means having the power to educate people about this painful disease, connect with others who often feel alone and encourage my community to take control of their health-You Are Stronger than RA!” – Aimée


Read more about Aimée.

Kylee Duede
Professional Golfer


Kylee Duede, professional golfer, was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at a very young age. Even though it only effects her left knee, RA has impacted her life greatly, but it never stopped her from playing sports growing up. She battled RA for several years until it went into remission at 12 years old, but suddenly came back in full force in 2011 ending her college golf career. Doctors expressed at age 13 while undergoing orthoscopic surgery she would need a knee replacement by 25. Since then she has tried various treatments of synvisc injections, humira, and currently takes azathioprine and an anti inflammatory. Instead of looking at all the negative challenges she faces, she remains positive and wants to be a role model for those battling the same issues. She wants to be apart of putting an end to Arthritis and nothing like this can stop her from reaching her dreams of playing on the LPGA!


More coming soon about Kylee.

Hayden Fisher | Blue Sky Cup | Cure Arthritis Ambassador

Hayden Fisher
Blue Sky Cup


Hayden Fisher is a Director at an asset management firm based on the East Coast, and resides in the Denver area with his wife, Erika, and their four kids. He has become an advocate for arthritis research through his affiliation with the Blue Sky Cup.


“The Cup” is an endurance ski tournament held every year at Vail, in Colorado, where all of the proceeds directly benefit the Arthritis National Research Foundation. Hayden co-founded the event with his college roommate, Jim Nollsch, in 2012. The goal was to ski as aggressively as possible throughout an entire ski day, pushing for over 40,000 vertical feet. After several successful events, the founders decided it should be for a bigger purpose. Now the event has dual goals, asking skiers to “ski a little harder, for a little longer, and make it their best day of the season” while also raising awareness and funds for arthritis research.


His co-founder, Jim, was diagnosed with RA as a young adult, but has thankfully been in remission for a number of years. But, because of his ailment the pair decided arthritis research was the obvious beneficiary and ANRF became a clear partner. ANRF has been a wonderful partner due to their willingness to support the event and their mission to provide initial research funding to brilliant, investigative scientists with new ideas to cure arthritis and related autoimmune diseases. Hayden and Jim agree it has been a great privilege to be associated with an organization that has a 4-star Charity Navigator rating for 9 straight years which places them in the top 1% of US charities.


When Hayden isn’t coaching flag football or watching lacrosse games or tennis matches for his kids, he’s frequently advocating for arthritis research through the Blue Sky Cup. You can follow along on social media, through appearances in the Vail area on TV and the newspaper, and on Denver sports talk radio.


Read more Hayden and the Blue Sky Cup.

Angie Irvin
Mrs. Gulf States International 2017


Angie Irvin lives in east central Mississippi and has been married to her husband, Reverend Danny Irvin for 29 years. They are the proud parents of two young adult daughters, who both work in the medical field. Angie is a retired educator, a minister’s wife of 27 years, and has been involved in the pageant industry for over 20 years as a director, producer, judge, and contestant. She was recently crowned Mrs. Gulf States International 2017, and decided to promote a platform close to her heart She’s calling it All FLARED Up: Arthritis Awareness. Her goal is to bring awareness to rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and the autoimmune arthritis community as a whole because she deals with her RA on a daily basis. She is honored to join @CureArthritis as a Cure Arthritis Ambassador for the Arthritis National Research Foundation, an organization that she champions and supports wholeheartedly.


Read more about Angie

Britt Johnson

Britt Johnson
Blogger, Advocate and RA/Spondylitis/Behçets Athlete


Britt J. Johnson was ANRF’s Community Outreach Coordinator and is The Hurt Blogger. She remains committed to ANRF even though she is no longer working here. She is an ePatient consultant working to create patient-centered care and design in healthcare systems and technology. With twenty years of experience as a chronic patient, she works to help keep the end user in mind first: the patient, while adapting systems to be more efficient and cost effective.


She is working to ease the pain of autoimmune arthritis through humor, sarcasm, and community, and put a face to this debilitating disease. She is a Stanford ePatient Scholar, she’s running to raise money for rheumatoid arthritis research with Racing For A Cure and she’s working on a project that will have her tackling one of the largest mountains in the world!


Join Britt in her quest to cure arthritis by making a donation today!

Lora Tucker Kassch


Lora is the founder of, a movement of encouragement for those diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases, Lora writes and speaks on hope and perseverance, no matter the odds. Her #hopelives blog provides daily inspiration on how to overcome challenges and maintain a positive mindset.


“I’m honored to work with a foundation that is so passionate about the community it represents. ANRF is a flagship in arthritis research and works tirelessly to educate the public about the many faces of arthritis. Similarly, my purpose in life is to bring daily hope, inspiration and encouragement to those affected by rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune conditions. I am delighted to partner with an organization that shares my values and cares so deeply and genuinely about those they help.”


As a strong fitness advocate, Lora is also studying to become a certified personal trainer, specifically to help those affected by RA. Her eBook, “Thrive with Rheumatoid Arthritis: Build Momentum and Create a Life You Love” was released on Amazon in 2014, as a tactical blue print on how to add inspiration to every day life in dealing with an autoimmune disease. She is also an ambassador for the Be Somebody movement, the world’s foremost platform for living your passion. Lora resides in Round Rock, Texas, with her husband, Jake, and two crazy, lovable mutts, Rosie and Molly.


More coming soon about Lora and

Kenzie Libbesmeier

Kenzie Libbesmeier, BSW, LSW
​Founder,​ Owner,​​ Writer​ ​| Be The Cactus Kenz & Be The Cactus Apparel

Kenzie Libbesmeier is a licensed social worker, writer, and avid reader previously (and still often) known as “super nanny Kenz. She is currently residing in the suburbs of Minneapolis, MN with her boyfriend L + service dog in training, Ophelia. Kenzie is an incredibly passionate young woman battling 3 complex medical conditions that have shaped her into the resilient, determined, and tenacious individual she is today.


Kenzie enjoys connecting with other children, teens, and young adults affected by chronic illness and autoimmune diseases. After being diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis at the age of 14, Kenzie found purpose in her pain through writing and sharing the realities of her medical complexities via social media.


Kenzie recently launched a new blog and merchandise store entitled “Be The Cactus Kenz.” She is thrilled about this new venture and looks forward to merging a unique variety of disease communities through her new website.


“Being an ambassador means ensuring that disease silos/barriers are broken down in order for patients with any + all chronic, autoimmune diseases to connect with one another through social media. Above all, I want every patient I encounter to know that they are never alone in their fight.”


Kenzie’s current goal​s include​: ​working on the launch of her new website, ​continu​ing to​ rais​e​ awareness through her online presence​, and additionally continuing to work on stabilizing her own health while recovering from hip surgery in June 2018.​ She is looking forward to starting her first official social work position in August!

Andrew Lumpe, PhD
Professor, Blogger and Patient Advocate


Andrew is a university professor and former high school science teacher. Symptoms of an autoimmune disease were first diagnosed in 2004 and joint problems came over the next few year resulting in a few joint surgeries. In 2009 he finally was formally diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and began a journey of trying almost every possible treatment available. Shortly after being diagnosed, he began the blog Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis representing musings about life with RA in an attempt to raise awareness and share his story. His science background drives him to dig into the scientific aspects of the disease and treatments. He was a co-presenter on a patient oriented research paper at the American College of Rheumatology Annual Conference. He currently serves as a Patient Advocate and Moderator for the patient site


Andrew lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest near Seattle with his wife and four children. Rheumatoid arthritis might have taken a toll on his body, but he won’t let it stop him from salmon fishing on Puget Sound!


Read more about Dr. Lumpe and Living With Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Carmen Mata
Racing For A Cure Athlete Ambassador


Carmen is an ex-sprinter and soccer player turned distance runner after being diagnosed with RA in her mid-30s. She started her running journey after asking her rheumatologist if she could still play soccer and workout and if there was anything she should avoid and his response started with “run while you still can.” July 2012 she decided to try and train for a marathon because she wanted to cross it off her bucket list and at least give it a try, while she still can. She had a plan, do a half marathon or two then see how that goes, then if all goes well she was going to run the LA Marathon.


October 2012 was her first half marathon, then she did her second in February 2013, after that she signed up for the LA Marathon which was the following month, on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 2013. It was supposed to be one and done, check it off the bucket list then move on, but the running bug bit her.


After taking about 6 months off after suffering a bad ankle sprain playing soccer she started running again in October 2013 and joined a local running club. They were the ones that nicknamed her “Lil Warrior.” She has not completed over 20 half marathons, 4 full marathons and some trail races including a 50k ultra-marathon.


Through her running, she got more and more involved with being an arthritis advocate and sharing her struggles. She realized how most people perceived arthritis and RA. She wants to change the perception that this is only an old person’s disease and change what people think someone with arthritis looks like.


One of her favorite quotes, is from John Wooden, “Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” Although there are things she can no longer do, she tries to remind herself that there are so many things she can still do.


Click here to read more about Carmen Mata.

Kristy McPherson
Professional Golfer


“Research is the key to finding new treatments and cures and the ANRF concentrates its entire effort only on research,” says Kristy. Having first had Still’s Disease (a type of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis [JRA]) and now adult rheumatoid arthritis (RA) Ms. McPherson is passionate about finding new treatments and a cure.


Click here to read more about Kristy McPherson.

Kate Mitchell


Kate is a writer living in Boston and a native of Maine. She studied secondary education and English at Vanderbilt University and taught high school English in Nashville before taking some time off to get her health in order and let arthritis know who’s boss. She has one novel out, more books in the works, and runs a lifestyle blog that includes a healthy dose about life with arthritis. To her, life is not complete without yoga or coffee.


“Being an ambassador means that you provide a public face and voice for people with arthritis and their loved ones.” – Kate


Read more about Kate.

Jim Nollsch | Blue Sky Cup | Cure Arthritis Ambassador

Jim Nollsch
Blue Sky Cup


Jim was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) at the age of 38, and the third generation of his family to battle the disease. Growing up as an avid skier, Jim watched his dad fight RA for much of his life and was always inspired by his refusal to let it get in the way of a day on the mountain. Fortunately, after his own diagnosis, Jim responded well to treatment and has been able to keep his disease mostly in remission.


In 2012, Jim co-founded the Blue Sky Cup with Hayden Fisher, his college roommate. The Blue Sky Cup is an endurance ski event where skiers push themselves to ski the maximum vertical feet possible in a single day. The event started as a celebration of Hayden’s 40th birthday, but soon grew in popularity. In 2015, Jim and Hayden partnered with the Foundation to leverage the event as a platform for raising awareness for arthritis research.


“My grandmother Annabel would have never been able to ski with her deteriorated joints. And my father Bill showed me how to fight RA. When I was diagnosed, he told me that if you stop doing anything, you’ll eventually stop doing everything. So I’ve never stopped. And the Blue Sky Cup is our way to give back to those in the community who are battling every day.”


Jim lives in Denver with his wife Laura, and kids Janey and Billy, both of whom hopefully never have to battle the disease. When they’re not skiing you’ll find them all on the golf course, a bike, or a sailboat.


You can sign up for the Blue Sky Cup at In honor of the late Warren Miller, remember: if you don’t do it this year, you’ll just be one year older when you do.


Read more Jim and the Blue Sky Cup.

Tonya Robb


Tonya founded the JRA5k and created after watching her daughter suffer through her battle with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA) for over a decade. As a mother and 5k runner, she wanted to leverage her passion for running to help further arthritis research. 100% of race registration money goes directly to help fund the Kelly Award to help find a cure for Juvenile Arthritis.


“First and foremost, I want to bring awareness about JRA. Not many people have heard of this disease and they don’t understand what children who are afflicted with it have to endure on a daily basis,” explained Tonya. “Secondly, I want to support my daughter in every way possible, including finding a cure for JRA.”


Helping raise awareness about JRA, as well as financial support for research is a passion that now has exceeded Tonya’s passion for running. She hopes one day to replicate JRA5k races all over the state of Minnesota and the country.


Click here to read more about the JRA5k.

Lori Ruff aka The LinkedIn Diva
CEO, Integrated Alliances


Lori is CEO of Integrated Alliances, an international training & consulting firm that shows businesses how to tap into LinkedIn and Social Media to achieve key business objectives.


A writer, speaker, and host, Lori has been named to numerous lists including Forbes Top 50 Global Social Media Power Influencers, CEOWorld’s Top Social Media Power Women, AGBeat’s Top 50 Industry Influencer, Moody’s 50 Favorite People of 2012, Top 10 Web Sources: US Women, #30Bestof Female Bloggers, and Webbiquity’s #Nifty50 Top Twitter Women Writers.


Known as “The LinkedIn Diva” Lori authored: Keep it Real, Rock the World™ with your Online Presence, is host of, and co-host of RockTheWorld with LinkedIn.


“Being an ambassador for, is deeply personal. I know that it is directly because of the work ANRF supported and funded long before I ever knew what RA was, let alone before I suffered with it, that paved the way for me to have a much better quality of life out of a wheel chair – for the most part – rather than a life full of pain in one and much more dependent on others.”


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