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Gratitude for a dream becoming a reality in our caring community

You know the feeling. The one you get when you begin to see your dream become a reality. That’s the feeling I have right now. It’s a feeling that can’t really be expressed, only felt, a feeling that can bring tears to your eyes and warmth to your heart. What makes it even better? Knowing there are SO many wonderful people that have helped make it happen.

Here’s how it all began…..

In 2009, my daughter, Kinsey, was diagnosed with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis a disease that causes swelling in the joints and can cause, if not properly diagnosed and treated, irreparable damage. Juvenile Arthritis not only affects the joints but can affect the eyes, skin and gastrointestinal tract. Most people don’t realize that kids can get arthritis. They think it’s just an “older persons” disease. This is far from true. Approximately 300,000 children under the age of 16 are affected by some form of Juvenile Arthritis.

The Arthritis Foundation website — www.arthritis.org — quickly became my number one source for educational resources, links to connect with other families and ways to be more involved. For me, getting more involved meant finding ways to fundraise. That’s when I found the Jingle Bell Run/Walk.

The Jingle Bell Run/Walk is the Arthritis Foundation’s festive fundraising event that involves tying bells to your shoes and dressing in holiday-themed costumes as you either run or walk a 5k course. Sounds fun. Right? Well, it is! My family, friends and I had so much fun that first year participating in the Seattle Jingle Bell Run/Walk that I knew I wanted to bring one to our community.

I felt strongly that it would be a success because I live in a community that cares. A community that rallies in support of a cause. Whether it’s raising money to send the local band to a national parade, to help a family pay medical bills or to keep a hometown business open, Port Orchard makes it happen.

It took some convincing to get the Arthritis Foundation to agree to let us host a Jingle Bell Run/Walk. But as soon as they saw it was my priority, they quickly made it theirs. We literally hit the ground running and quickly made a plan for our event. We knew it would be necessary to spread the word as many ways as possible, so we filled our calendar with countywide events and created J.B. the Elf. Everywhere we went, we not only raised awareness for the event but for juvenile arthritis as well.

It was also important to set goals. The Arthritis Foundation had their goals … and I had mine. I thought 500 participants would be nice but 1,000 would be wonderful. I thought raising $15,000 would make me happy but $30,000 would make me ecstatic! We currently have 53 teams, over 760 participants and have raised over $28,000. So, I guess you could say, I’m ecstatic!

Yes. My moment of gratitude has arrived. My dream has become reality. Words cannot express my appreciation for all the support received. I wish I could personally thank everyone who has contributed in any way to the success of this event. Whether you were there to cheer us on at the Fathoms O’ Fun parade or at the Harbor Festival Dinghy Derby Race; whether you are a registered participant or an event sponsor; whether you attended a meeting, told a friend about the event, or hung a poster in your place of business; whether you bought something at one of our bake sales, donated an item for a drawing, or made a donation to a participant. The list goes on and on. ALL acts of support are appreciated. It is because of YOU that the event is a success.

At the event, I’ll be the one running around in a crazy, holiday-inspired costume, a huge grin on my face and making sure that everything is going “jingly.” If you see me, stop me. I’d love to give you a big “thank you” hug!

 

Sheila Cline is the volunteer organizer of Port Orchard’s first Jingle Bell Run

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