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Monday, July 15, 2024

2021 Capital Region Gives Back: Rainbow Doemel, Associate Executive Director, Arthritis Foundation, Northeastern New York

Doemel's own daughter was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis when she was 18 months old.

This story is part of a larger feature on 10 do-gooders from Saratoga and the rest of the Capital Region. To meet the other nine honorees and purchase tickets for annual fundraising event, visit our Capital Region Gives Back event page.

Rainbow Doemel’s journey to the Arthritis Foundation (AF) started with the most unlikely patient: her daughter Kolby, who was only 18 months old at the time. When the toddler presented with swollen fingers, Doemel and her husband became concerned, assuming that their active little one had injured herself around the house while unsteadily learning to scurry around. But the hand specialist they visited had some shocking news: Kolby had psoriatic arthritis. “My husband and I thought, ‘How is that even possible?’” Doemel says. “My first call was to the Arthritis Foundation for help and information. When they answered, I started to cry. I had a baby diagnosed with arthritis and I didn’t know what that meant.”

Fast-forward 17 years, and Kolby is pre-med at Clemson University. Her mom? Doemel moved up the ranks from AF volunteer and a 10-year stint as the local chapter’s director of development, to the now–associate executive director for Northeastern New York.

The AF serves patients with more than 100 forms of arthritis, and Doemel worked hard to keep the various arthritis communities and patients connected during COVID. She says that seeing their isolation (many are immunocompromised, so are less likely to do a lot of in-person activities) and fear of drug shortages kept her driven during the toughest times. She is currently resurrecting AF’s crucial holiday fundraiser, the Jingle Bell Run, and encouraging sign-ups for VIM, a new (and free) pain management and community-building app.

“The pandemic is certainly a challenge, but the mission in my heart has never changed,” she says. “Kolby thinks she’s gotten more from her arthritis than was ever taken, including life skills and learning how strong she is. I hope to inspire the local community to feel the same way.”

Abby Tegnelia
Abby Tegnelia
Abby Tegnelia is the chief executive officer of Capital Region Living and Saratoga Living. She previously worked at New York magazine, Glamour and Us Weekly, and has contributed to Marie Claire, Women's Wear Daily and Maxim.

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