Joyous Jingling is sound of community spirit

You could search far and wide, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a more inspiring example of community spirit than the gathering here in Port Orchard last weekend.

By any measure — number of participants, fundraising total, dry weather — the Jingle Bell Run/Walk was an astounding success.

That was obvious without any stats on how many runners sporting elf shoes and bells assembled on Bay Street, or how much money was raised for the Arthritis Foundation, or what the temperature was.

You can’t quantify it, but the best indicator of success Saturday was simply how much fun everyone had.

It was one of those gatherings where a palpable buzz was everywhere; a good vibe that engulfed the crowd as it swelled, with a wave of more participants signing up as start time approached.

That buzz and the huge turnout Saturday are a testament to the vision and energy of Sheila Cline, the dynamo who made it her mission to stage the first Jingle Bell Run in Port Orchard after finding out her daughter was afflicted with juvenile arthritis.

With the help of a few close friends, she led a spirited yearlong promotion of the event. The tireless Cline (who could wear out the Energizer bunny) and the Jingle Bell Run mascot she created, JB the Elf, were seemingly everywhere in South Kitsap in 2011.

Whether it was her irrepressible smile, the resonance of her cause, or her elf’s giant head and dazzling green outfit, the Jingle Bell Run sparked an amazing response. It exceeded the most hopeful goals of its ambitious organizer, and it expressed our community’s holiday spirit in an unforgettable way.

These days when it often seems an endless onslaught of bad news and trouble buffets our collective consciousness, it was a blessing to be part of a gathering like we witnessed Saturday.

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