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The Jingle Bell Run returns to ring in arthritis awareness this season

By: Jessica Meszaros

The 2016 Jingle Bell Run [Photo courtesy of the Arthritis Foundation]

The nation’s longest-standing holiday-themed race is returning to St. Louis this year and, as always, it’s for a good cause.

The 2017 Jingle Bell Run takes place Nov. 19 at the Hollywood Casino, 777 Casino Center Drive in Maryland Heights.

The race has been a St. Louis tradition for 25 years, according to Cheri Fitts,  Arthritis Foundation Midwest Region executive director. “It continues to grow as our mission grows and our need for funding continues to grow,” Fitts said. “Just last year, we were using the statistic that 1 in 5 Americans was affected by arthritis, and we were just notified this summer that it’s now over 1 in 4.”

For some participants, the race is a time-honored tradition that serves as a testament to coping with and overcoming the challenges that accompany many forms of arthritis. One of those honorees is Parkway Central High senior Emily Goldstein, who has been participating in Arthritis Foundation  walks since she was about 4 years old, As a child, she was honoree at the Walk to Cure Arthritis annual 5K event.

Goldstein was first diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis at age three when she had trouble getting out of bed one morning and saw her knee had swelled to the size of a grapefruit.


Parkway Central High senior Emily Goldstein

“What I have is an autoimmune disease, so when I was 3 years old, my immune system attacked itself and the healthy tissues,” Goldstein said. “Someone with osteoarthritis doesn’t have the same issues because it’s not affecting their immune health.”

The arthritis that started in her left knee gradually spread to Goldstein’s ankles, wrists, fingers, elbows, toes and jaw. Goldstein also was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at age 14, which impacted her treatment.

“Once they figured out that diagnosis, it was a lot easier to control my diseases knowing that was also happening to my body,” Goldstein said. “I have it much less severe than some others, but when you have an autoimmune disease, it flares up, and that does affect me in my everyday life and especially in my athletics.”

Goldstein maintains her athletic status by running cross country at the varsity level and as a distance runner in track and field.

Her support team, known as Emily’s Entourage, has been attending the Arthritis Association’s runs and walks since her original diagnosis. This year, the team has raised about $1,250 with 26 members.


The Emily’s Entourage fundraising team

After graduating high school, Goldstein plans to pursue a degree in nursing.

“It’s amazing what doctors have been able to do for me,” Goldstein said. “It’s more than just giving back. I want to provide that same help to others because I understand how others feel in that hospital setting – scared and alone. I want them to know they aren’t alone.

According to the Arthritis Foundation, the term arthritis can refer to more than 100 types of joint diseases that affect more than 50 million adults and 300,000 children.


Race-goers strike a pose at the 2016 Jingle Bell Run [Photo courtesy of the Arthritis Foundation]

“Everybody thinks of arthritis as an older person’s disease, but it’s not,” Melanie Goldstein, said. “People don’t realize that kids get arthritis too, and it’s not the same arthritis that older individuals get. They need to understand. That’s why they have three different honorees at the run. They have an adult, a young kid and a teenager because rheumatoid arthritis can affect anyone on the spectrum.”

The Jingle Bell Run is a U.S. Track and Field-certified race. Entry fees start at $20 for kids and $35 for adults. To register, visit or call (314) 447-4881.

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