Jingle Bell 5K a festive affair for Arthritis Foundation

Run/walk to be held Dec. 7 on Pittsburgh's North Shore

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With bells on their toes, thousands of people will run, trot and walk in the Arthritis Foundation’s 29th Annual Jingle Bell Run/Walk on Dec. 7, along Art Rooney Avenue adjacent to Heinz Field on the North Shore.

Among the participants will be Brianna Reinhart, 6, of McCandless, a child who has been living with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis since before her second birthday, and Patty Sergeant, 57, of Center, a Beaver County mom who was diagnosed with osteoarthritis three years ago.

The 5K walk/run, described as “holiday-themed” by organizers, is certified by USA Track and Field. In recent years, more than 3,000 runners and walkers dressed in festive holiday attire and tied jingle bells to the laces of their running and walking shoes.

“People even bring their dogs, and the dogs are dressed up, too,” said Ms. Sergeant, who is entered for the second year with her daughter, Alexis, and with her team, “Patty’s Peppermint Prancers.”

Runners dressed as elves, Santa and Christmas trees “made the event festive and fun,” she said. “Last year I walked. This year I may do some trotting.”

Brianna and her sister, Alyssa, 4, will do the 100-yard Tinsel Trot, for children 11 and younger, said her mother, Loni . Brianna’s father, Joseph, and other relatives and friends will be participating with her team, “Bookin’ It For Brianna.”

The team has pink T-shirts and Santa hats “and we’re looking for some crazy tights,” Mrs. Reinhart said.

The event is held to raise awareness and funds for arthritis research, programs and education. Fifty million Americans live with arthritis, which is the nation’s leading cause of disability. The Jingle Bell Run/Walk is a nationwide team event to raise money.

Brianna was 16 months old when she started showing symptoms -- an unwillingness to walk or crawl due to pain and stiffness. When a pediatric rheumatologist made the diagnosis, inflammation was present in her knees and toe and finger joints. She has also had uveitis, an eye inflammation that comes and goes and requires treatment with special drops.

“We do spend a lot of time with doctors” and regular medication is needed to prevent joint damage, Mrs. Reinhart said, “but Brianna swims, bikes, plays soccer and plays with her friends. To look at her you would never know she suffers from this chronic condition.”

Ms. Sergeant, who works as an auditor for the state, says she was “thrown for a loop” in June 2010, when she fell from the top of a staircase to the bottom, cracking her femur. The injury caused intense pain that never let up, and doctors determined she had osteoarthritis.

Ms. Sergeant was 54 years old at the time and had always been active, exercising regularly and occasionally running 5K races with her daughter, Alexis, who ran on her high school track team. But after her accident, Ms. Sergeant needed a cane just to walk. Then she needed two canes, and sometimes she used a wheelchair.

In April 2012, she had surgery for a total right hip replacement, and one month later she had the left hip replaced. With physical therapy she has resumed all of her activities and is pain-free.

“It’s amazing with medical miracles and God’s blessing, I am living my life again,” Ms. Sergeant said.

Ms. Sergeant and her daughter are involved with the Arthritis Foundation because “it lets you connect with people who have the same disease. They raise money for research” that lead to treatments that enable people with arthritis to live their lives, she said.

Registration is $30, which includes a T-shirt, or $35, which includes a shirt and timing chip. The Tinsel Trot for children is $15. Race-day registration  is 7:30-9:30 a.m. and the race starts at 10 a.m.

Information and registration: www.jinglebellrunpittsburgh.kintera.org. 

Linda Wilson Fuoco: lfuoco@post-gazette.com or 412-722-0087.

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