By Julie A Jacob
The overcast December sky and soft snowfall did not faze the thousand or so people who gathered at Racine Lutheran High School on Saturday for the 12th annual Racine Jingle Bell 5K Run/Walk for Arthritis.
The walkers and runners, many dressed in festive holiday clothing including antler hats, red bows and, yes, jingle bells, participated in the race around Island Park to help raise money for the Arthritis Foundation to fund various education and research programs.
The Wisconsin chapter of the Arthritis Foundation estimates that the Racine race will raise about $30,000; it was just one of several Jingle Run/Walk events held in the state, including one last month in Milwaukee.
The run/walk began at 9:30. Santa and Mrs. Claus were on hand to wave to the runners and walkers at the start of the race. Some people walked individually or with friends, while others were part of organized teams. Several participants walked with their children, while other runners and walkers brought along their dogs, decked out in red bows and holiday collars. A group of runners from Waterford dressed as a team of reindeer. One brave man dressed as a rabbit wearing a Packers uniform.
High school students handed out hot cocoa, waved pom poms, and cheered on the participants as they ran or walked along the picturesque race route lined with lacy, snow-covered trees and Victorian houses hugging the Root River.
Behind the merriment and costumes, however, was a serious purpose: to raise money for arthritis research, education and services. About 46 million people in the United States have some form of arthritis, including 1.1 million in Wisconsin, and 5,400 children here. Wisconsin has a high rate of arthritis compared to other states, according to the Arthritis Foundation.
“The funds raised at these events go toward important programs and services that help people improve their quality of life including self-help classes, land and water-based exercise classes,” said Jennifer McTavish, public relations coordinator for the Wisconsin chapter of the Arthritis Foundation, in an e-mail interview. “We also have an 800-number information and referral hotline where people can call in and get help. Oftentimes people call in to get help or just to talk to someone about their disease when they are first diagnosed, or a family member might call in for a parent or child who has arthritis to get more information. Funds also go toward critical research projects that might just be the key to finding a cure. There are three Arthritis Foundation funded research projects going on in Wisconsin right now.”
There are many misconceptions about arthritis, McTavish noted. One is that arthritis is just one disease. In fact, the term “arthritis” refers to more than 100 different diseases that can cause joint inflammation, pain and damage, and sometimes also affect other parts of the body.
Another misconception, McTavish noted, is that arthritis affects only elderly people. In reality, people of all ages have arthritis. In fact, this year’s honoree of the Racine Jingle Run/Walk is 14-year-old Kelsey Chester, who has both psoriatic arthritis and Wegener’s Granulamotosis. Kelsey takes medication that controls her symptoms and allows her to lead a normal teenager’s life, according to an Arthritis Foundation news release.
Finally, there’s the misconception that osteoarthritis – wear and tear of the joints caused by repetitive strain or injury — is a normal part of aging. In reality, osteoarthritis can be prevented or minimized by being careful not to injure one’s joints and staying at a healthy weight. For more information on arthritis, go to www.arthritis.org