Men & Women of Harford Making a Difference

Local residents committed to philanthropy making the county strong

October 04, 2012|By Jennifer K. Dansicker & L'Oreal Thompson

The uniqueness of Harford County lies within the people who strive to make it great. So many residents reach out daily to improve the lives of others. We have chosen six extraordinary individuals who have chosen causes that support the success of the county and, in many ways, encourage others to give back.

Stathis Kotanidis, owner of Pat’s Pizzeria in Edgewood, uses his professional resources to give back through volunteerism and donations which promote his personal pride in the county. Chip and Bruce Riley honor their father’s memory with a scholarship fund that benefits local youths. Jennifer Vido, published author and arthritis advocate, has a personal approach that brings awareness to a debilitating disease. Marlene Lieb co-founded the Women’s Giving Circle of Harford County and is leaving a her mark through a fund that was created by the organization. And Pastor Carol Taylor empowers others through her ministry to take charge of their lives.

Jennifer Vido
Spokeswoman for the Arthritis Foundation

By L’Oreal Thompson

When lifelong arthritis sufferer, Jennifer Vido wakes up in the morning, she hurts. By the time she goes to bed at night, she hurts. But, pain can be a great motivator if you can channel it in the right direction. The 44-year-old Bel Air resident doesn’t let arthritis stop her from living a full and active lifestyle. The wife and mother of two adolescent boys is a member of the Harford County Public Library Board of Trustees, a water therapy instructor, an author and spokeswoman for the Arthritis Foundation.

“I don’t know what it’s like to live without it,” says Vido. “I’ve learned to navigate around the disease. It’s a part of me, but it’s not who I am. It doesn’t define me.”

Vido was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis when she was just 8. Since then, she’s become an advocate for the disease, which currently has no cure.

“Kids get arthritis, too. It’s not just an ‘old person’s disease,’ ” she says. “Part of my mission is to get that across, so people realize it’s not just adults.”

According to statistics from the Arthritis Foundation, the disease affects 50 million American adults and 300,000 American children. In Maryland, more than 1 million adults have arthritis, and it is the country’s most common cause of disability.

Vido, a New Jersey native, first became involved with the Arthritis Foundation during her freshman year at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. She coordinated a “fajita fest” to raise money for the foundation, a tradition that continues to this day on the college campus.

“When I was at Vanderbilt, I was studying to become a French teacher. I always knew I’d become a teacher, but I didn’t know I’d be teaching about arthritis or that it would become my life mission,” she says.

In 1999, Vido moved to Bel Air from Atlanta and became a national trainer for the Arthritis Foundation’s aquatic and land exercise classes. As a trainer, she travels regionally to educate other instructors on how to teach the classes.

“For me, it’s really important to make sure we’re giving you the right instructions,” she says. “Who better to learn from than someone who walks the walk?”

When she’s not training other instructors, Vido can be found teaching water therapy classes three times a week at Kids First Swim School at the Festival in Bel Air. The classes are co-sponsored by the Arthritis Foundation.

“Teaching water therapy classes helps me stay in shape, and I get to help others,” says Vido. “I want to be the best mom and wife I can be.”

In addition to being a certified exercise trainer for the Arthritis Foundation, Vido is also a spokesperson for the organization and president-elect of the Rheumatoid Arthritis Alliance Leadership Group.

Indeed, the former French teacher has dedicated her life to promoting awareness of arthritis and helping those, especially children, with her condition. Every year, Vido hosts an author dinner for arthritis, sponsored by Harper Collins Publishers.

Earlier this year, the seventh annual fundraiser featured New York Times bestselling authors Marisa de los Santos and Wendy Corsi Staub. Proceeds from the event benefit The Kids Rheum Network, a support system for kids with arthritis, as well as other arthritis advocacy initiatives and research.

In her spare time, Vido enjoys reading and writing. Her first book, a romance-mystery novel titled “Par for the Course,” was published in 2010 and she’s currently working on the sequel, “Country Clubbed.”

“When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. My arthritis makes me who I am today, and for that I’d never change anything. I love my life and I love my family … those are the most important things,” says Vido.

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