Participants in the Jingle Bell Walk and Run for Arthritis make their way around the track at Brandon University’s Healthy Living Centre on Sunday.
(BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN)
Four-year-old Jayva Gaudet runs around the track during the Jingle Bell Walk and Run for Arthritis at Brandon University’s Healthy Living Centre on Sunday. (BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN)
At the age of two, Tori Hildebrandt was diagnosed with arthritis and a life of needles and prescriptions is all she knows.
But the juvenile polyarticular arthritis that plagues her knees, ankles, toes and wrists didn’t stop the six-year-old MacGregor girl from lacing up hockey skates for the first time this year.
In an attempt to dispel the myth that arthritis only affects seniors, Hildebrandt has become a "youth ambassador" for the Arthritis Society, which put on the fifth annual Jingle Bell Walk and Run for Arthritis on Sunday.
Her mother Kristen said about three in 1,000 children have some form of arthritis.
"She has to take needles every week. She has to take pills every day, but she’s been doing it since she was two so it’s all she’s ever known," she said.
While Kristen said her daughter has had little pain from the swelling in her joints, she doesn’t know how the degenerative joint disease will affect her daughter’s future.
"It’s just one of those things, you don’t know what’s going to happen next," she said.
During Sunday’s Jingle Bell Walk and Run for Arthritis, which drew about 60 people to Brandon University’s Healthy Living Centre, nearly everyone was dressed up in Christmas costumes, including at least 20 people who participated to support Tori.
"(The society) started a lot of programs for kids, which is obviously important to us, so we like to give back to them and make sure they can continue," Kristen said.
Over the last five years, the society has raised about $50,000 through the walk, which goes to research and programming through the organization.
The walk is aimed at drawing attention toward the Arthritis Society’s local support group, which is made of about 20 people who offer workshops, tai chi, pain management, education and services for those with mobility issues.
"But primarily, the walk is for raising money for research and education that we provide," said Genny Sacco-Bak, special events co-ordinator for the Arthritis Society’s Manitoba/Nunavut division.
This year, more than $11,000 was raised, surpassing last year’s total of $10,000. This year’s event, sponsored by Rolling Spokes, marked the first time it was held indoors, which bolstered attendance and will likely be held in the same venue in the future.
While a Christmas tree, a candy cane fairy, Santa Claus and several other costumed participants ran along the upstairs track at the HLC, Sacco-Bak said it’s not too early to ring in the holiday season.
"As long as Halloween has passed, we can start celebrating Christmas," she said with a laugh.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition November 4, 2013