The Finnish Rheumatism Association (Reumaliitto), founded in 1947, has initially been associated with elderly people. However, every year more than 100 children are diagnosed with rheumatism or other musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) and this group often feels left alone with the disease. Reumaliitto is currently strongly repositioning its brand to appeal to a younger audience. The event presented here was targeted to young children and families affected by rheumatism and the purpose was to support the brand renewal process of Reumaliitto as well as to attract new members to the association.
Iloa elämään event (Bring joy to life) is the biggest event for children and youngsters aged 2-16 suffering from rheumatism or MSD. The idea is to assemble the target group and offer them and their family members a joyful experiences and a day full of happiness and indulgence. For families with children suffering from rheumatism or MSD everyday life is often quite challenging and painful, so this event strived to balance daily routines by offering a well-earned break. Furthermore, the objective was to enable peer support and an opportunity to learn more about the disease from medical experts in the field.

The multi-purpose event venue was transformed into an adventurous treasure hunt. The children were greeted by hosts dressed in fantasy costumes and the entrance area was dominated by an inflatable bouncing castle. In the gift shop and candy store offered by sponsors the children could select toys and hobby utensils as well as enjoy complimentary candy. From there it was easy for the children and youngsters to find their way to different workshops, since the venue itself with its transparent walls supported the successful implementation of the event. Different activities were simultaneously visible to the audience, so it was just to pick and choose from a big variety. A dog-room where well-trained dogs offered comfort and proximity turned out to be a real treat from the children’s perspective. The theater workshop encouraged the participants to find their inner superhero and all children produced their own magical cape. The Christmas elf creative dance circuit was made the children discover the venue in an exciting way from rooftop to basement. The favorite room of the girls was definitely the hair styling salon. In the music room different musical instruments created a symphony of joy and laughter and in the ginger bread factory the kids were welcome to decorate cookies that were served in the afternoon coffee break where a cotton candy machine enchanted the crowd. Additionally, amazing performers ranging from acknowledged illusionist Noora Karma, celebrated music band TCT to beloved Santa Clause entertained guests from all ages. The questions and answers session with a doctor and nurse specialized in rheumatism was very much appreciated as well.

The outcome exceeded Remaliitto expectations. The event had a strong return on investment and it will be developed further in coming editions. Also the participants were pleased. The feedback survey revealed that 70 percent of the participants had not attended Reumaliitto events previously, thus a whole new audience was reached with this event. New member applications for children and teenagers were dropping in right after the event, furthermore, membership statistics will be followed up in the post- event period. It seems that the event really refreshed the image of this association, implying that it is not only meant for elderly old people.

The peer support effect during and after the event is significant, young people notice that they are not struggling alone with the disease and friendships can easily be maintained by means of social media. This event also strengthens the identity of sick children in a positive way, since the disease usually affects the family negatively, but in the case of this event it provides the very reason to spend a fantastic day together. Volunteers from regional associations taking part in the event acquainted themselves with the event concept and they will encourage the local associations to organize similar events in the regions. Finally, representatives of the European League against Rheumatism were present at the event and they became interested in developing the event concept also internationally. Notably, the event concept will be presented at an international rheumatic congress in London in May 2016.

The guest feedback was overwhelmingly positive, 93% of the attendees were very satisfied with the event. Pictures were shared on the Facebook by the guests and the event page was filled with grateful, emotional comments. “Wonderful workshops, everything was great, the performers were nice and overall the day was very successful!” “TCT made the teenagers’ day.”

  • “Lovely day! Children enjoyed themselves, easy going day together with the family and new friends. Thank you Reumaliitto!”
  • “It was nice to meet children who suffer from rheumatism from all around Finland.”
  • “Thanks for the well organized event. The venue was better than last time. The schedule was arranged well. Thank you!”
  • “Happy, nice and relaxed togetherness. Activities for all ages and a warm Christmas spirit. Thank you!”