By Reubin Turner
The Arthritis Foundation will hold its 23rd annual Jingle Bell Walk for Arthritis event Dec. 8 at Cameron Park Zoo in downtown Waco.
This nationwide event, created to help raise awareness for arthritis, will also raise money for the research, health education and government advocacy to help improve the lives of those living with the condition. Arthritis is America’s leading cause of disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to the CDC, approximately 294,000 people under the age of 18 have been clinically diagnosed with the disease in the United States.
“The prevalence of arthritis in our nation is surging, and we cannot ignore it,” said John H. Klippel, president and CEO of the Arthritis Foundation. He said events like Jingle Bell Walk/Run for Arthritis help promote community and awareness about arthritis.
The event will consist of a 5-K run and a 1-mile walk. The snowman shuffle, an event for kids 12 and under, will feature a six-tenths of a mile route. There will also be a Sleigh Gate area where costume contests for all ages will be held. Participants are encouraged to tie jingle bells to their shoe laces and wear costumes to the event.
Rachel Martinez, the community development director for the Arthritis Foundation of the Heart of Texas area of the South Central Region, said having a variety of events gives people of all ages and health conditions a chance to participate in the event.
“We have countless numbers of families and senior citizens who come to support the event and we like to give them an opportunity to walk or run, depending on their physical condition,” Martinez said. She also said in the past, some participants brought their dogs and walked them during the event.
“It definitely one of our biggest events of the year,” Martinez said.
In addition to the many people who come to participate in the event as athletes, Martinez said the event relies heavily on the number of volunteers who come to help, due to the increasing number of participants for the event. Martinez said students from Baylor makes up a large portion of the volunteers who come to help every year.
“We’ve had a lot of support from Baylor in the past few years,” Martinez said. She said in the past, former football coach Guy Morriss, who was an honorary chair for the volunteer committee, sent football players to the event. Various fraternities and help organizations from the university have helped as well.
Martinez said she is extremely grateful for the relationship they’ve developed with Baylor over the past few years.
Montrose, Colo., sophomore Sarah Pulliam said she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis a year ago, and that many people underestimate the issue.
“Giving students an opportunity to help those who suffer from arthritis is an amazing way for Baylor to be a part in something providing relief and awareness to our society,” Pulliam said.