Mon-mons against the monster: Colorado Springs girl fights juvenile arthritis with her creatures

It’s not every day her arthritis is this forgiving. So she’s taking advantage here in her Colorado Springs home.

Cutting felt and pinching a needle can be excruciating some days, but she’s doing it all with relative ease today. Sewing, stuffing, stitching — creating the pillow creatures she calls mon-mons, growing her colorful legion. +5 Caption + Show MoreShow Less Underneath a wall of family portraits, Anya Nelsestuen sews her Mon-Mon creations. Anya was diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis at age 6. An enthusiastic fundraiser for the Arthritis Foundation, she has been creating stuffed animals she calls Mon-Mons since age 11 to raise money for the foundation. JERILEE BENNETT, THE GAZETTE That’s when she first imagined the button-eyed mon-mons. It was another painful, sleepless night, and she ran the idea by her mom: The stuffed animals, Anya said, could be given out in return for donations to the Arthritis Foundation.

That’s juvenile arthritis (JA). People know about arthritis; it’s the leading cause of disability in America, the Arthritis Foundation reports, affecting more than 50 million adults. But it’s easy for Anya and for families like hers to feel forgotten. She’s one of the country’s estimated 300,000 kids living with JA, which has an unknown cause and cure.

Don’t tell her that at the JA camp she directs every summer. Anya is among kids filling it to capacity (the move this year from Estes Park’s YMCA to Deckers’ Camp Shady Brook is to make more room, closer to 80). And don’t tell that to Anya’s parents, who, like Butscher, have conceded to ever finding a cure. Instead, they’ve committed themselves to giving back. +5 Caption + Show MoreShow Less Anya Nelsestuen was diagnosed with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis at the age of 6 years old. Anya has become an enthusiastic fundraiser for the Arthritis Foundation and she has been creating stuffed animals she calls Mon-Mons since the age of 11 to raise money for the foundation. (Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette)

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