Mariah Aquino has followers worldwide and is well-known in the Pittsburgh area for being the teen behind Mariah’s Movers, an organization the 10-year from Beaver Falls/Patterson Heights founded in order to bring awareness to juvenile arthritis (JA), an incurable disease she was diagnosed with at age 5. The affliction makes her joints swell and at times, makes it unbearable for her to walk.
Her doctors recommended a hydrotherapeutic tub in order to provide circulation and healing benefits on days when she is suffering the most. Her mother, a single mom supporting two daughters, one with a chronic disease, is unable to afford the tub, which costs in excess of $10,000.
At a Juvenile Arthritis Convention, earlier this year, Mariah and her mom Tory met young Kaitlyn Weaver and her mother Michelle. Over the summer, Kaitlyn was nominated to receive a free, state-of-the-art tub, courtesy of Safe Step Cares, the philanthropic arm of Nashville-based Safe Step Walk-In Tub Co. Kaitlyn returned home from church camp to find 100 people in her yard surrounding her own tub. TV crews were in on the surprise, TV clip here.
While Mariah considered Kaitlyn’s fortune a stroke of luck and didn’t think about it again, her mother decided to start a movement of her own. Over Labor Day weekend, dozens of friends and family members took their case online to www.safestepcares.com in order to nominate Mariah to receive her own tub. Nearly 50 nominations were received, all saying how involved Mariah was in the community, raising money to bring awareness to JA.
The letters all landed on the desk of the Safe Step executive team and the coordinator for the program Derek Farley, who considers all nominations for Safe Step Cares on behalf of the company, which has provided approximately one tub a month for more than three years to those in need who could benefit from a hydrotherapeutic tub.
Farley visited the family a few weeks back, the final step in the consideration process, and through the blessing of company president Mike Duffer, who started the national program of giving, was able to inform Mariah’s mom that her daughter would be the first Pennsylvania recipient of Safe Step Cares.
“The number of nominations was amazing, but the message was even more meaningful,” said Farley. “She doesn’t let the disease define her. She started her own organization and runs an annual fundraiser to raise money for JA research. Her mom puts her daughters first and the financial toll of the disease is lost on a lot of people. Not us. In fact, that is why Mike created Safe Step Cares. We look forward to surprising Mariah with a life-changing gift on November 3 at her home. Of course, Safe Step will be well represented because we believe in this program.”