With light snow and temperatures hovering at 29 degrees, approximately 900 people took part in the annual Jingle Bell Run in Chicago at Soldier Field Dec. 9.
“The Jingle Bell Run is a great tradition for the Chicago community to come out and support the Arthritis Foundation and the patients that we serve,” said Jessica Bearak, executive director of the Arthritis Foundation in greater Chicago.
Runners donned festive holiday gear. Some participants wore Christmas pajamas and plushy Santa Claus beards. Warm headgear was bright and blinking light necklaces or sequins offered bling.
The holiday timing was also all about generosity for the many who registered. Fundraiser proceeds were estimated at more than $200,000.
“Arthritis affects over 300,000 children across the United States and countless adults,” said Linda B. Grandolfo, Chicago Leadership Board chair with the Arthritis Foundation.
“Almost everybody will eventually suffer from arthritis and we need to find a cure.”
Audrey Sumner, 6, a first-grader from the Chicago suburban area, donned a seasonal hat while she ran alongside her mother Kristin Rawl. Dec. 9 was Audrey’s first 5K run and also was her birthday present.
“I’m so proud of her,” Rawl said, about her daughter. “We’re here to support charity and we’re excited.”
Rawl complimented organizers.
“It’s adorable,” Rawl said, about the event’s appeal.
People could write the name of a loved one on a holiday ornament to place on an indoor illuminated tree. There were amenities such as face painting and giveaways to encourage wellness and education.
Children, Santa and Mrs. Claus bested the Santa Dash. The 5K and a shorter run had a windy course with a view of Soldier Field and the Lake Michigan shoreline.
The first finisher of the chip-timed 5K was Eric Lesch of Chicago with a verified time of 16:42.
Of the race conditions: “It was all right, the wind wasn’t really fun on the way back,” Lesch said, moments after crossing the finish line.
Bearak estimated that 75 volunteers assisted. Outdoors, volunteers offered medals to finishers.
“We could not put on this event without all of our amazing volunteers,” Bearak said. “They get up early and they make our participants feel so welcome and we just couldn’t do it without them.
“We really thank them,” she said.
According to the foundation, arthritis causes slow and often painful deterioration of the body’s bones, ligaments, cartilage and tendons. More than 54 million Americans have arthritis (1-in-4 adults), including 2.3 million adults and 13,000 children in Illinois.
All Jingle Bell Run proceeds support the Arthritis Foundation’s mission to help find a cure for arthritis.
—- Jingle Bell Run rings in the Christmas season —-