Jingle Bell race in Mount Pleasant raises money, awareness about arthritis

Around 500 people gathered at Roper's Mount Pleasant Hospital for the Arthritis Foundation's Jingle Bell Run/Walk. The event raised more than $30,000 for arthritis research. Buy this photo

Lisa Shultz, 38, and her husband Kim moved to North Charleston in January, largely for the sake of their two daughters.

Both Amelia, 5, and Liberty, 4, were diagnosed with juvenile arthritis in 2010.

The family lived in Seattle prior to the move. With the city's steady downpour of rain came recurring flare ups and constant pain for the little blonde-haired girls.

"Every joint from her head to her toes would be swollen," Lisa Shultz said of Amelia, who at 23 months was the first of the two girls to receive the diagnosis.

"She stopped walking all together and would barely move," Lisa Shultz said. "We were nervous at first because we didn't know what was wrong with her. ... I didn't know children could get arthritis."

The girls manage their disorder through a number of medications and routine checkups at Medical University Hospital. Arthritis didn't slow them down on Saturday as they ran and played beside dozens of other children during the Arthritis Foundation's Jingle Bell Run/Walk at Roper's Mount Pleasant Hospital.

The third annual event included a 5K timed run, a 5K walk, a one-mile Rudolph Run and Dancer Dash race for the children.

Runners tied bells to their shoe laces and donned antlers and Santa hats given the event's Christmas theme. The group enjoyed food, music, and partook in group yoga exercises to stretch their bodies before scheduled runs.

Funds raised through the event will go toward arthritis research.

While at the fundraiser, Lisa Shultz recalled first learning of her daughters' diagnoses.

The girls' condition manifested as a type of autoimmune disorder, Lisa Shultz said. Their immune systems were mistakenly attacking their bodies, causing inflammation and swelling in their joints. The swelling could potentially spread to their eyes resulting in blindness if not properly managed.

Lisa Shultz said that her daughters' health is under control thanks to a team of local doctors.

"We're blessed that they can run jump and play like any other child. When you look at them you wouldn't know that they have arthritis," Lisa Shultz said.

She can't help but wonder, however, about possible side effects of the medication her daughters are taking. Her worries won't ease, she said, until more research is gathered on juvenile arthritis.

Saturday's fundraiser raised more than $30,000 for research and local programs, far surpassing its goal of $21,400, said Joyce Gilles, the Lowcountry branch director of the Mid-Atlantic Region of the Arthritis Foundation. Around 500 people participated this year, she said.

According to the latest figures gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 300,000 children have some form of arthritis nationwide. Around 50 million adults reported being diagnosed with arthritis in 2009. About 1,022,000 of those adults are South Carolina residents, the CDC reports.

In addition to raising funds, Gilles said the annual event aimed to raise awareness about the disorder and its wide reach.

"The goal is to raise as much money for research as we possibly can and hopefully, one day, we'll find a cure," Gilles said.



Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908 or at Twitter.com/celmorePC.

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