TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - 12-year old Dolci Towle looks like any other middle school girl. She's active, loves to laugh and hangs out with her dogs and her chickens.
The difference is you'll usually see Dolci in the shade when she's outside and she no longer runs like she used to.
Dolci used to love hanging out in the sun at the swimming pool with her family. But that changed when she was eight-years old and came home from church came with a red rash on her face and blisters on her knuckles.
Dolci's father, Frank, says he chalked it up to sunburn and poison ivy. Except it didn't go away. Around the same time, she started developing muscle aches. Her mother, Jennifer, recalls it got to the point where Dolci couldn't life her arms to put on her shirt by herself.
It was actually a dermatologist who figured it out. Dolci was diagnosed with juvenile dermatomyositis, a form of rheumatoid arthritis.
"I'd never heard of it before so I was okay," Frank said, "until I Googled it and there's way too much information!"
"We panicked because there's a large spectrum of severity with this condition and we didn't know how bad she was," Jennifer says.
Medication keeps most of Dolci's symptoms in check but she had to give up sports and she can't spend much time in the sun. She admits that can get frustrating, especially when "all your friends are doing something that you can't do."
But Dolci has picked up new interests, like playing the cello. She hopes to be either a doctor or a crime scene investigator when she gets older. For now, she has the support of older sister Ameris and her parents. They say the whole family has has had to rethink how they do family activities.
The family unites around activities for the Arthritis Foundation, hoping one day to find a cure.
"It's real for us," Jennifer said. "Our child has this condition and we would like for her to be cured someday - and the only way she can be cured is by people funding research."
"The way I felt when I got diagnosed - I don't want other kids to feel that way," Dolci said. "I want them to have a cure because I don't want them to go through what i did."
Dolci is the honored hero for Saturday's Arthritis Walk at Lake Shawnee. Registration begins at 8 am at Shelter House #2, with the walk starting at 10 am. To register, get information or donate to a team, visit www.arthritis.org.