FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

AARDA SALUTES APRIL #AUTOIMMUNE HEROES FOR VOLUNTEER EFFORTS

Newswise — DETROIT, April 27, 2016 – In honor of National Volunteer Month and as part of its ongoing 25th Anniversary celebration, American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA) announced today its April Autoimmune Heroes – the countless volunteers who have supported AARDA and its mission, with special recognition to 10 individuals who have served continuously for roughly 20-plus years, including:

• Ruth Kibler for her role as AARDA’s longest serving “go-to” volunteer since 1991, from answering phones and helping in the office to sitting on the fundraising committee and getting out the newsletter and everything in between. • Marilyn and the late Thomas Assiff for their work to support AARDA’s vital patient education and outreach activities and for creating AARDA’s first database. • Abby Bernstein for her advocacy work, lobbying Congress to raise awareness of autoimmune disease and the need for increased autoimmune disease research funding. • Natasha Leskovsek for her patient and physician advocacy and education work, using her legal prowess to help translate science from the bench to the clinic to the benefit of patients. • Donna DiSante, Chuck and Susan Gaidica, Carolyn Ugval and Barbara Willett for their incredible fundraising and special events work at AARDA’s headquarters in Detroit, organizing highly successful annual events, soliciting donations, recruiting volunteers and raising awareness for autoimmune disease and money for research.

AARDA’s #AutoimmuneHeroes campaign recognizes the work of individuals and organizations that have advanced the autoimmune disease agenda in the areas of research, patient safety, advocacy, public education and awareness, service and volunteerism, among others.

“AARDA’s volunteers, many of whom have personal experience with autoimmune disease themselves, have been and remain today the life blood of our organization, helping us to grow exponentially over the last 25 years and positively impact the lives of the 50 million Americans who suffer from these diseases and their families,” said Virginia Ladd, founder and executive director, AARDA (@AARDATweets). “We salute these autoimmune heroes and thank them for their continuing and unwavering support.”

Each month for the next 12 months, AARDA will be announcing its #AutoimmuneHeroes. Over the last 25 years, these heroes – both individuals and organizations – have proved critical to helping AARDA become the national organization it is today, while positively impacting the lives of the 50 million Americans with AD and their families.

In addition, AARDA also launched this year its #25for25 fundraising campaign. It invites individuals and organizations the world over to recognize AARDA’s achievements on behalf of people with autoimmune disease and support its work going forward by donating $25 to the organization (www.aarda.org).

About American Autoimmune Related Diseases AssociationCelebrating its 25th anniversary, American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA) is the nation's only non-profit organization dedicated to bringing a national focus to autoimmunity as a category of disease and a major women's health issue, and promoting a collaborative research effort in order to find better treatments and a cure for all autoimmune diseases. For more information, please visit www.aarda.org.

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 PROFILES – April 2016 Autoimmune Heroes

American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association Salutes Autoimmune Hero Ruth Kibler in recognition for her…

• role as AARDA’s longest serving “go-to” volunteer since 1991, from answering phones and helping in the office to sitting on the fundraising committee and getting out the newsletter and everything in between.

In the mid-1970’s Ruth met AARDA founder Virginia Ladd through shared volunteer work at their children’s school and became fast friends. When Virginia decided to create AARDA in 1991, Ruth wanted to help and she still does so today.

“Twenty-five years ago, Virginia wanted more focus on autoimmune disease and AARDA was born. I wanted to be a part of it and followed along for the adventure. I volunteered in the office answering phones, filing, typing letters, acknowledging donors’ gifts, bookkeeping and whatever else needed to be done. It has been a pleasure to work with a wonderful group for a cause that is so important.”

 American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association Salutes Autoimmune Heroes Marilyn and the late Thomas Assiff in recognition for their…

• work to support AARDA’s vital patient education and outreach activities and for creating AARDA’s first database.

The Assiff’s first came to know AARDA when Marilyn met Virginia Ladd at a rheumatologist’s lecture on lupus with which her husband Tom had just been diagnosed. Within a week, Marilyn and Tom both were volunteering at AARDA. For them it was giving back to an organization that had given them so much.

”It has been a mutually rewarding relationship as AARDA provided us much needed education and support about Tom’s autoimmune disease and we could volunteer our time and dollars to support AARDA’s vital outreach to other patients and their families.”

American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association Salutes Autoimmune Hero Abby Bernstein in recognition for her…

• advocacy work, lobbying Congress to raise awareness of autoimmune disease and the need for increased autoimmune disease research funding.

Abby first became involved with AARDA in 1994 when she was diagnosed with her first autoimmune disease. She was struggling to obtain information and found AARDA to be an invaluable resource. She knew right away that she wanted to become involved. In addition to sitting on AARDA’s advocacy committee, Abby also served two terms as a member of AARDA’s board of directors.

“AARDA is an outstanding organization that is leading the way in supporting autoimmune disease research and promoting autoimmune disease awareness. I’m proud to be an AARDA volunteer.”

 American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association Salutes Autoimmune Hero Natasha Leskovsek in recognition for her…

• patient and physician advocacy and education work, using her legal prowess to help translate science from the bench to the clinic to the benefit of countless patients.

An attorney practicing FDA regulatory law in Washington, DC, Natasha considers it a stroke of luck that she was introduced to AARDA and Virginia Ladd in 1996 when she first started practicing law.

“Working with AARDA over the years on patient advocacy issues, scientific symposia, publications and autoimmune nursing practice guidelines allowed me to learn so much and it has been so gratifying. Next on, the autoimmune moon shot!”

American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association Salutes Autoimmune Hero Donna DiSante in recognition for her…

• incredible fundraising and special events work at AARDA’s headquarters in Detroit, organizing highly successful annual events, soliciting donations, recruiting volunteers and raising awareness for autoimmune disease and money for research.

About 20 years ago, Donna’s rheumatologist introduced her to AARDA and suggested she help them with a fundraising event. Once she learned more about the immensity and impact of autoimmune disease on the population, she was happy to remain an AARDA volunteer.

“Based on my own experience with rheumatoid arthritis and the struggles of relatives and friends with type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, lupus, Crohn’s disease, psoriasis and scleroderma, I realized the necessity of finding a common factor. I greatly admired AARDA for the research they’ve brought forth, the education they provide for medical professionals and the public at large, and for their advocacy efforts for all people with autoimmune disease. I congratulate Virginia Ladd, Dr. Noel Rose, the AARDA board and staff, the dedicated medical professionals and the many volunteers who contribute to this noble work.”

American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association Salutes Autoimmune Heroes Chuck and Susan Gaidica in recognition for their…

• incredible fundraising and special events work at AARDA’s headquarters in Detroit, organizing highly successful annual events, soliciting donations, recruiting volunteers and raising awareness for autoimmune disease and money for research.

• enlisting their entire family to help support the cause.

Susan and Chuck Gaidica, the longtime Director of Meteorology on Detroit’s WDIV-TV Channel 4, and the current host of “Live in the D”, phoned AARDA looking for information when their son Charlie was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. They have been strong supporters of AARDA ever since.

“As our young family was growing, our son Charlie was stricken with autoimmune hepatitis in his teen years. We have supported AARDA because of the information and kindness they provided our family over time. Charlie is now a busy husband and father. The team of caring souls at AARDA is wired to serve others each day and they do an amazing job. They are a blessing.”

American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association Salutes Autoimmune Hero Carolyn Ugval in recognition for her…

•incredible fundraising and special events work at AARDA’s headquarters in Detroit, organizing highly successful annual events, soliciting donations, recruiting volunteers and raising awareness for autoimmune disease and money for research.

Carolyn became involved with AARDA through her sister who has multiple autoimmune diseases. Over the years, she has seen other friends and relatives diagnosed with different autoimmune diseases, too.

”I have been very fortunate to work with the people at AARDA. I have learned so much from them. They are hard workers who are also so kind and thoughtful. I am very touched and blessed to be given this honor.”

American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association Salutes Autoimmune Hero Barbara Willett in recognition for her…

• incredible fundraising and special events work at AARDA’s headquarters in Detroit, organizing highly successful annual events, soliciting donations, recruiting volunteers and raising awareness for autoimmune disease and money for research.

Some 20 years ago, Barbara’s niece was hospitalized for many months with a life-threatening autoimmune disease. Her sister introduced her to AARDA and asked her to help AARDA with fundraising. She never looked back.

“I volunteer to help with AARDA fundraisers not only because of the support the organization has given to our family, but because of the integrity and dedication of AARDA’s staff. Led by Virginia Ladd, the staff makes volunteers feel that their time invested in AARDA is important. We all know how important public awareness, advocacy and research is in helping those afflicted with autoimmune disease. The cause itself is important, but most of all, I think people volunteer at AARDA because their staff make them feel their efforts count.”