By: Sheryl Sowell | Category: Health & Fitness | Issue: November 2010
Whitney Parker, community development director for the Arthritis Foundation Eastern Oklahoma Chapter, and Dr. Ronald LaButti of Central States Orthopedic Specialists, medical chair of the Jingle Bell Run, at the event kick-off party.
On Saturday, December 11, the Arthritis Foundation Eastern Oklahoma Chapter will host the 26th annual Jingle Bell Run/Walk for Arthritis. “This is a really fun and festive way to kick off the holidays, while helping others at the same time,” explains Whitney Parker, community development director for the Arthritis Foundation Eastern Oklahoma Chapter. “We encourage everyone to dress up for the costume contest in festive holiday gear such Santa hats and elf hats. We also give runners and walkers bells to tie on their shoes, so everyone jingles all the way to the finish line!”
The Arthritis Foundation’s Jingle Bell Run/Walk for Arthritis raises awareness of America’s leading cause of disability, while raising funds for research, health education, programs, and government advocacy to improve the lives of people with arthritis. According to the Arthritis Foundation, arthritis or chronic joint symptoms affect 46 million adults and 300,000 children. Approximately 3,500 children and teenagers in Oklahoma suffer from some form of arthritis or rheumatic disease.
This is the 26th year for Tulsa to host the Jingle Bell Run, one of the longest in the country. “It certainly is a favorite within the running community, both for its uniqueness and because it is one of the few races held in December each year,” says Whitney. “Last year, we had the largest turnout in Jingle Bell Run history, with over 2,000 people participating and more than 100 dogs.”
Registration begins at 8 a.m. at the Southminster Presbyterian Church, 3500 S. Peoria Ave. The 1K Fun Run and Holiday Costume Contest will be held at 9 a.m., and the 5K USATF Sanctioned Run, chip timed, will be held at 9:30 a.m. Prizes will be awarded for top race finishers, as well as top costume contest winners in adult, child and dog categories. “This event is a fun and effective way to support the Arthritis Foundation in the prevention, control and cure of arthritis and related diseases,” says Whitney.
Whitney’s drive to raise awareness of arthritis began on a personal level. In 2005, she started to feel like something was really wrong with her health, even reaching the point of not feeling like doing anything at all. When she went to the doctor, they could never find anything wrong.
In 2007, Whitney was visiting her parents, and her dad gave her a hug. When her mom, an RN, saw her eyes fill with tears from the pressure of his embrace, she knew instantly what was wrong. That day they read everything they could find about fibromyalgia and its symptoms. When Whitney flew home, she made an appointment with a rheumatologist, who confirmed that she was a classic fibromyalgia patient. It was a relief to finally know that it wasn’t all in her head, and that she wasn’t crazy! With the help of medication and stretching exercises, she got her life back.
Throughout her entire journey, Whitney’s mom was her role model and hero. In 1998, her mom was diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome, followed by lymphoma and rheumatoid arthritis. She faced each of these battles with incredible grace and courage. Whitney says her mom never complains about her illness and values each day for what it has to offer. As a tribute to her mom, Whitney wanted to do something special. In February of 2010, Whitney started a team for the Arthritis Walk in Tulsa and flew to Tulsa to participate in the walk with her mom as a birthday gift. She knew that raising money for arthritis research would be a present her mom would really enjoy. With the help of family, friends, and even friends of friends, Whitney’s team raised $5,300 for the walk. About the same time, Whitney was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis as well. She is now doing well, has settled in Tulsa, and plans to begin the Arthritis Foundation classes to proactively manage her disease.
Advance registration for the Jingle Bell Run/Walk will be $25 for adults and $15 for children, and includes a long-sleeved T-shirt. On November 27, two weeks prior to the event, cost will increase $2. On the day of the race, registration will be $30 for adults and $20 for children. Dog registration is $5, and each dog will receive a special gift. To register, visit tulsajinglebellrun.kintera.org.
Sheryl Sowell was born and raised in Tulsa, OK. She graduated from Will Rogers High School and received her Bachelor of Arts in English from Northeastern State University in 2007. She has worked for Value News as editor, writer and advertising copywriter since 2008. She enjoys meeting and interviewing people for Value News articles, learning about their backgrounds, and helping to promote their businesses and local events. In her free time, she enjoys reading, trying new recipes and crafts from Pinterest, attending concerts and sporting events, and spending time with family and friends. Sheryl lives in Tulsa with her fiancé Paul, their daughter Scarlett, and their two dogs, Gunner and Boo.