originally published December 2008

Arthritis Banner

When Spring and Summer finally come around everyone gets excited to finally be able to break out of their homes and get outside. Though for people with severe (and even not so severe) joint and mobility problems caused by arthritis, the changes in season means little. Perhaps that’s part of the reason behind The Arthritis Society stepping out and deciding to create a Winter event. Granted the fact that, from May to September, the general public is faced with about a dozen “Walk for …” events so it doesn’t hurt that there’s significantly less competition in the Winter. But you have to admit, the idea’s kind of novel isn’t it – why didn’t we think of this before?

The Jingle Bell Run in a concept that’s been highly successful for American Arthritis organizations and the concept is catching on in Canada. The Arthritis Society – Newfoundland and Labrador Division in is one of a few provincial chapters giving the event a test run. Supported by North Atlantic, they’ve set a fundraising goal of $18,000.00, which was over 10% reached before the walk has even stared. Even more impressive is that of $1,110.00 of what’s raised so far has been brought in by a team led by Brenda Kitchen.

She’s the new Executive Director of the provincial chapter, so you’d expect her to be a powerhouse, bringing in a substantial chunk. But, what’s unique is that she’s only recently took the job! Kitchen was long involved with Newfoundland Sexual Health Centre, back when it was Planned Parenthood. The leap was unsolicited but after a lot of research, where she learned that Arthritis affects 1 out of 5 people here, she decided to make a career change. The compelling research wasn’t solely responsible though, she’s had personal experience.

Her grandmother suffered from Arthritis but was unable to take anything to minimize it because they caused other ‘more dangerous’ health problems. “She was so crippled from the disease that we had to lift her from her rocking chair to a wheelchair and when we did, her legs stayed bent as if sitting.” This isn’t even the most extreme situation either; many with it in their hands are unable to even feed themselves. It was these considerations that ultimately led Kitchen to want to get involved and help speak up for the 95,000 in Newfoundland and Labrador.

She says the challenge is in making people understand that arthritis is not just minor aches and pains or that it’s a natural part of aging. Of the people affected, more then 60% of people are within a working age population. There is even juvenile idiopathic arthritis which targets youth as young as 18 months old. But The Arthritis Society is there to help and offers a number of assistance programs, informational workshops and works with government and medical professionals to address the need for public awareness.

A big part of that awareness will come from the very inventively positioned Jingle Bell Run (or walk) for Arthritis. It will be happening in St. John’s in just a few days on November 16 with registration starting at the Royal Canadian Legion in Pleasentville at 9:30am. New World Fitness has come on board to make sure everyone is properly warmed up for the walk which will conclude around noon complete with entertainment from the Kilkenny Krew, awards, prizes and refreshments. “I’m looking forward to this event and will even be sporting my elf costume!” says Kitchen, as it is a holiday themed walk, team members are encouraged (but not obligated to) wear something festive. The registration for an individual is only $30.00 and families can get involved for $70.00 which covers 1 – 2 parents and any children under 12. With each registration comes an entry into all the prize draws but the good cause is reason enough to turn out for this rain or shine event because as Kitchen points out, “arthritis makes the things we all take for granted take forever.”