When Bryce Eddy was about 16 months old, her parents knew something wasn’t right.
The south Charlotte child was having trouble walking and standing up in her crib, particularly in the mornings. After her 18-month checkup, Bryce under went some tests that quickly found the problem – Bryce was struggling with juvenile idiopathic arthritis.
“I was definitely upset in the beginning,” Jacob Eddy, Bryce’s dad, said. “I would take her to school in the mornings, and that’s when she was the worst. The first fear you have is it’s going to be completely debilitating.”
But the Eddys quickly discovered Bryce, now 2 years old, is one of 300,000 children across the United States affected by arthritis, according to the Arthritis Foundation. They also learned, through medication and physical therapy, many of these children can live a normal life.
The Arthritis Foundation is bringing the community together to help fight arthritis so others like Bryce can have a better shot at living a normal life. The foundation will host its annual Jingle Bell Run/Walk on Dec. 7, a Saturday, at 8 a.m. at the Blakeney shopping center, 9800 Rea Road.
The event, a 5K people can run or walk, is held at multiple locations nationwide to raise money for arthritis research, education and programs for those afflicted with the disease.
Last year’s Jingle Bell Run brought in a total of $45,000, and the foundation’s goal for this year is $58,000. More than 400 people are already registered for the walk, and the foundation is expecting around 1,000 participants this year, according to Stephani Tucker, region director of walks, runs and rides for the foundation.
Tucker said the money raised through the event will support research at Duke University Hospital and Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, and the foundation is hoping to fund a junior researcher at one of the regional hospitals for a year.
Other funds will support local exercise programs for people dealing with arthritis, promote education – especially for Spanish-speaking patients – send activists to Washington, D.C., to advocate for arthritis research and help send local families with children who have juvenile arthritis to an annual conference.
“We try to keep as much of those dollars in our region as possible,” Tucker said.
In addition, the Jingle Bell Run will include a one-mile fun run, doggie dash, kids’ zone, crafts and people dressed in seasonal costumes. And participants will have the opportunity to donate directly to Bryce and her family.
Bryce’s condition has stabilized through a combination of several methods of physical therapy and finding the right medication. But her mom, Jill Eddy, said there’s no way to know when her arthritis will come out of remission and symptoms will start to flare up again.
“She’s in remission. She’s healthy. We haven’t had any issues for a while,” Jill Eddy said. “We’re very fortunate she’s responded so well to the medication … We’ve heard (people with arthritis) have more episodes in the winter during the cold months, so we’re waiting to see how she progresses.”
One of the things the Eddys said has worked well for Bryce is keeping her active while knowing her limitations – something they encourage other parents of children who have arthritis to do. And they’re hoping the Jingle Bell Run not only raises money, but increases awareness, as well.
“I want to see a lot more awareness … many people don’t know kids can get (arthritis),” Jacob Eddy said.
His wife agrees.
“I think that’s the biggest takeaway – kids can get arthritis, too,” she said.
Find more information about the Charlotte-area Jingle Bell Run and how to donate to Bryce at www.jinglebellruncharlotte.kintera.org.