Champions of Making A Difference

By Blaine Ochoa

Life’s persistent and most urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?

– Martin Luther King Jr.

In the middle of trying times and hardships it can be difficult to stay positive, focus on the good, and ultimately the bigger picture in life. We all have choices to make everyday, and our choices determine the difference we make in the world. It is up to you to decide what difference you want to make. Battling diseases, overcoming a pandemic, or fighting to have hope for another day is prevalent, especially right now. In order to overcome the challenges we are facing, we must persevere, especially in dark times, to be the light and continue to help others. Nonprofit organizations, whose main focus is geared to helping others and giving back, have been challenged to put their resilience to the test in these trying times. Innovation, willingness, and passion have been the key ingredients of making the Houston Arthritis Foundation successful during this critical year.

The Arthritis Foundation is committed to helping others. The national organization is a nonprofit that pursues a cure for arthritis “with life-changing resources, science, advocacy and community connections.” Arthritis is the No.1 leading cause of disability in America, and is commonly known as inflammation in one or more joints in the body, causing pain, stiffness and swelling. “Arthritis also causes decreased range of motion, that can limit daily activities such as walking, standing, or bending, and sometimes can result in chronic pain.” There are many different forms of arthritis, including the most common types, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. In the United States “more than 54 million adults have doctor-diagnosed arthritis and almost 300,000 babies and children have arthritis or a rheumatic condition.”

Beth Muecke, Houston Arthritis Foundation Director – Jen Torres, and Nicole Lassiter.

It has been a challenge for many nonprofit organizations, like the Arthritis Foundation, to remain operating in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. Due to Covid-19 in-person fundraising has been disrupted, making it difficult to raise money for the organization. The annual Bone Bash Gala that normally takes place in October, has been cancelled this year, which is usually the biggest fundraising event for the Houston Arthritis Foundation. The Gala has raised $2.2 million in the past nine years. Fundraising efforts have shifted into more virtual and creative platforms. Between utilizing social media, virtual ‘Walk to Cure Arthritis’ walks, and newly founded, ‘Crafting for a Cure’, fundraising efforts have carried on and prevailed despite the present challenges of the pandemic.

“Strength is given to you to serve” – Lisa Bevere

Resilience and creativity have proved triumphant when it comes to fundraising during the current pandemic. This year, Nicole Lassiter, Bone Bash Gala Chair 20-21, created ‘Crafting for a Cure’. Nicole was Miss Texas USA 2003 and is married to the love of her life James M. Lassiter III, who is a prominent attorney in Houston, TX. What started as designing handbags for family and friends as gifts, turned into a successful fundraising outlet. Through direct purchases and fun raffles, Nicole has raised over $10,000 during the past few months for the Arthritis Foundation, via her beautiful and custom, ‘Creations by Niki Lassiter’ designs. Nicole started designing and creating handbags a few years ago when she was diagnosed with multiple forms of arthritis and was unable to leave her home. Crafting proved to be great therapy to cope with having invisible illnesses. “Even in desperate times we have to remain arms wide open, and I feel like God has used me in this time to give back,” says Lassiter. In the past two years, she’s raised over $100,000 through personal donations, network connections and handbag sales. Her handbags have even been seen on ABC 13, during a special segment featuring her fundraising efforts.

There will always be an opportunity to do good and make a difference in other’s lives. Going above and beyond to make a difference, especially during difficult times, is what makes the Arthritis Foundation special. “Even during a pandemic, the pain of arthritis doesn’t stop. The Arthritis Foundation continues to fight for Houstonians struggling with this painful disease and we will persevere despite financial setbacks,” stated Houston Arthritis Foundation Executive Director, Jen Torres. Arthritis Foundation volunteers and supporters are the heart and soul of what makes the organization successful and the ‘Champion of Yes’.

 For more information or to donate to the Arthritis Foundation you can visit or contact Jen Torres at or (713) 253-0688. (Data and statistical information found on the Arthritis Foundation website) 

Also, if you would like to view the Creations by Niki Lassiter website or make a purchase visit

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