Briar’s parents, Abby and Scott Matley, felt terribly guilty when she was diagnosed with a form of JIA (Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis) two years ago when she was 12. They thought her achy joints were just ‘growing pains’.

Since then, while they’ve learnt a lot about the condition, it’s been important for them to walk the journey of arthritis together as a family, one day at a time, and surround Briar with as normal a life as possible.

Attending camp this year was part of that process. “Overall it was a brilliant experience, not only for the kids, but for parents as well. Being surrounded by others going through similar experiences brings a sense of normality,” says Abby.

At their first camp last year, the Matleys enjoyed being with people who understood what they were going through, as Briar’s diagnosis was new and hard to explain to others. Their daughter was able to relate to others and start friendships. “When Briar was first diagnosed we found we didn’t talk about it with family or friends unless we were asked as we felt it was a ‘downer’ on the conversation.”

This year, Abby and Scott gained as much knowledge as they could from specialist speakers and youth leaders to help overcome the feeling of helplessness in the face of a chronic disease. Briar loved the camp so much that she wants to become a youth leader herself in a couple of years.

“You just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Gaining more information on JIA gives insight that there is light at the end of the tunnel,”

Briar’s JIA condition is now stabilised, thanks to the biological drug Humira which is taken as a fortnightly injection. She is now learning how to lead a balanced lifestyle while dealing with chronic pain. Briar attends a supportive school – she is able to keep up with her school work and was chosen to be a team leader this year.