HUDSON -- Paula Phillips will lead her team, "I Give Back," May 13 in the 2017 Walk to Cure Arthritis 5K walk at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.

However, Phillips will not only be walking as her team's leader but as a person who has suffered through the torment of arthritis for more than a decade.

In addition, Phillips, of Hudson, will be representing all of Northeast Ohio as the local adult honoree for the annual walk. The organization also honors youth advocates and doctors regionally and locally for their work.

Phillips is being honored for her volunteer work with the foundation after her diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis in 1999, according to the foundation.

"I'm just there to give back," said Phillips, who also raises funds on her own and was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis more than 17 years ago. "I feel I was born to give back."

The Arthritis Foundation, specifically in Northeast Ohio, raises funds to educate, advocate and provide research for those diagnosed and identified with all the forms of arthritis, according to Phillips.

"Seventeen short years ago, I reached out to the Arthritis Foundation of Northeast Ohio as directed by my rheumatologist, Dr. Rochelle Rosian, at the Cleveland Clinic," Phillips said. "Because of the Arthritis Foundation I have never been alone in my pain and suffering which I am sorry to say does occur."

And while Phillips is walking to raise funds for everyone, her heart especially goes out to the the children who suffer with arthritis.

"It really is all about the kids," Phillips said. "They suffer immeasurably."

Phillip's son, Michael, and her husband, Mike, are members of her 10-member team and will join her on the May 13 walk.

According to Phillips, arthritis is the leading form of disability in the country.

"It's a bad thing," she said.

Phillips was shocked when she received the telephone call stating she had been named adult honoree.

"I was surprised," Phillips said. "I don't like to be the focus of attention when it comes to this [arthritis]."

Phillips said she would like to see more people donate until they cannot give anymore or until it hurts, she said.

"For me, that's what I do," she said.

According to Phillips, giving back is not about her but the children suffering, the doctors working to find a cure, the researchers, therapists working to help increase patient quality of life and nurses who take care of the patients. It's also about those who are creating the medication allowing sufferers to function.

"If it wasn't for that [the medications] I would be in a wheelchair right now," she said of the medications. "When you are sick on this journey, with this, you are really sick."

While Phillips has not been able to volunteer a lot lately with various organizations, she has been active in volunteer circles for years. Phillip's volunteer list included being treasurer of the Hudson PTO, Hudson Garden Club, Laurel Lake Retirement Community and is actively involved in Arthritis Foundation of Northeast Ohio and a member of the Cleveland Walk Committee and the First Congregational Church of Hudson.

Phillips still enjoys gardening when she can but cannot spend as much time tilling and weeding as she did in the past.

"I do it all, every single day, the best that I can do," she said.

Phillips' team will be among the thousands of Northeast Ohioans raising money for the Arthritis Foundation May 13. The Cleveland Zoo walk is a 5K walk with a 1-mile option. There will be a wellness expo, music giveaways and a variety family activities.

The walk begins at 9 a.m. with registration beginning at 7 a.m.

Opening ceremonies will begin at 8:30 a.m.

Cleveland Metroparks Zoo is located at 3900 Wildlife Way in Cleveland. Event proceeds support the 1.3 million Northeastern Ohioans suffering from arthritis.

Funds support areas such as advocacy and access to care, juvenile arthritis, help and support tools and critical arthritis research conducted at local institutions throughout Northeastern Ohio.

"Arthritis is the number one cause of disability in America--affecting one in every five adults, an estimated 300,000 children and countless families," according to the foundation's webpage. "The Arthritis Foundation's Walk to Cure Arthritis is an annual event that supports our mission to conquer the disease by spreading awareness and raising money for research aimed at finding a cure."

The Cleveland Walk to Cure Arthritis attracts over 2,200 attendees including corporate, community and family teams, as well as individuals from across Northeastern Ohio whose lives have been affected by arthritis, according to the foundation.

To learn more or to find a team visit www.arthritis.org/get-involved/walk-to-cure-arthritis.

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