“My dear young lady, you are trying to move a mountain with a very little spade.”
As we stand on the cusp of our 70th anniversary, looking back at our humble beginnings to where we stand today, the one thing that stands out about all that has been accomplished is the unwavering support of our donors.
Our story began in the 1940s. Mary Pack’s job as a teacher with the Vancouver School Board took her into the homes of children whose physical disabilities made it impossible for them to travel to school. She met children with juvenile arthritis who were crippled by painful and deformed joints. At that time, a diagnosis of arthritis was a sentence to a life of disability, disfigurement and pain. The disease was often untreated and allowed to progress unchecked. Families were mostly left on their own to care for their children.
Moved by their suffering and committed to the belief that life did not have to be like this for people with arthritis, Mary began an odyssey for change. She knew that there were thousands of volunteers and donors who were willing to step forward to help. With a 7,000-signature petition in her hands, she met with her Member of Parliament about the challenges of arthritis. His reply was less than helpful, if not dismissive: “My dear young lady, you are trying to move a mountain with a very little spade.”
Little did he suspect how inspirational he would be. With renewed determination, Mary fought on -— but she was not alone. Dr. J. Wallace Graham was a highly respected rheumatologist from Ontario who had dedicated his career to improving the quality of life for patients with arthritis. While working with patients in private practice and as head of the Veterans Affairs Hospital in St. Thomas, Dr. Graham saw the need first-hand. An energetic and compelling leader who was passionate about making a difference, he campaigned tirelessly to create an organization that would serve the needs of arthritis sufferers.
And so in 1948, with some sense of inevitability, the Canadian Arthritis and Rheumatology Society (C.A.R.S., the forerunner to The Arthritis Society) was formed with Dr. Graham serving as the first national volunteer president. Donors came forward to ensure that the resources needed to support the first research programs and launch the pioneering patient care programs were available.
So the task of moving the mountain began. Today, The Arthritis Society and all of our donors are imbued with the spirit of Mary Pack and Dr. J. Wallace Graham. The mountain is moving - lives have been changed, but there is still so much to be done.