By Alexandra Gilliss
Anyone passing by Springbank Park on the morning of Nov. 12, 2016 may have thought Santa came to town a little early this year.
In actuality, the mass of joggers in red suits and with white bearded faces were part of the Fourth Annual Jingle Bell Walk & Run for Arthritis.
The family-friendly event, hosted by The Arthritis Society, offers runs for all ages and athletic abilities from the 2 km fun run to the 10 km race.
Participants and their furry companions are encouraged to dress in their ugliest Christmas sweater, Santa costume, or other festive gear. Prizes are awarded for Best Ugly Sweater, Best Kids Sweater and Best Pet Attire.
The annual fundraiser seeks to benefit national research and local education, programs and services for the 4.6 million Canadians living with arthritis. This year, the event saw 210 participants and raised almost $15,000.
Within the local community, funds go to three different areas.
The first is the Arthritis Society's grants at the Bone & Joint Institute at Western University. Every year, the organization provides upwards of $300,000 to the Institute for research into the cause of osteoarthritis and how the degeneration of cartilage can be slowed down.
Source of Data: https://arthritis.ca/understand-arthritis/arthritis-facts-figures
The Society also contributes to the Fowler Kennedy Sports Injury Clinic, who investigates more clinical aspects of the disease. This includes using wearable sensors after knee or hip replacements to better understand body mechanics, with the goal of developing more effective treatment options for patients.
In addition to research, funds will also be used to send children and teens living with arthritis to a specialized summer camp in August 2017. This opportunity helps youth living with juvenile arthritis feel less isolated and encourages them to support one another with their diagnosis.
The final component is the organization's community educational classes. Event funds contribute to sustaining community outreach initiatives which aim to inform the public about the variety of conditions that fall under the term arthritis and living with chronic pain.
Rochelle Ten Haaf, Community Development Manager at the Arthritis Society, was the mastermind behind this year's event. Her personal experience living with a degenerative form of arthritis in her lower spine is what motivated her to first become involved with the organization.
"It affects one in six adults and over 24,000 children, so most likely everyone is touched by arthritis at some point in their personal life. Whether it be themselves or with a loved one, with a family member or friend", says Ten Haaf.
Ten Haaf has worked in the nonprofit sector within Canada and internationally for almost 10 years. "I love knowing that at the end of the day, what you're trying to do is making a difference."
While the event occurs in six different locations across Canada, London is the only place in Ontario that it's held. Ten Haaf says this is because of London's active running community, however, the Arthritis Society does host other events on a national level.
To show off their enthusiasm, participants were encouraged to share training tips and progress, pictures of their costumes or motivational quotes using #JingleBellRun.
While the fun may be over for this year, the Jingle Bell Walk & Run for Arthritis will be back in London again November 2017.