SCHOOL CLOSINGS DUE TO ILLNESS

Runners in the Christmas spirit for Grand Rapids Jingle Bell Run

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — An estimated 300 participants put on their festive gear and came together Saturday morning not only to race but to more importantly bring awareness to people living with Arthritis.

Both runners and walkers laced up their gym shoes and were off for the 3rd annual Jingle Bell Run here in Grand Rapids. But this event wasn’t just happening in West Michigan. More than 37 other Jingle Jell Run events took place in 25 states around the county all to bring awareness to Arthritis.

"My mom had really severe Rheumatoid arthritis throughout her lifetime and she recently passed away, and so one of the memorials we made to her was for the arthritis foundation and so we decided as a family to come out and support arthritis,” runner Karen Goebel tells FOX17.

Arthritis affects 1 in 5 adults in America and more than 3,000 children, according to the Arthritis Foundation.

"In Michigan those stats are 1 in 3 adults and more than 10,000 children so this is a cause we don’t realize hits so close to home," says Lacey Dixon, Development Director with the Arthritis Foundation of Grand Rapids.

And for one Grand Rapids-area mother, that statistic was something she never imagined.

"I was completely shocked, it was a lot of fear of the unknown we didn’t really know what that meant for someone as young as Tyler," says Tonya Francis, whose teenage son is living with Arthritis.

Tyler Francis, now 17, was diagnosed when he was just 12 years old after realizing a simple bike ride with his friends was too much.

"Know your own self, don’t be afraid to feel like you have something different with you because getting on a regimen or medicine to help you live a better life is just better for you,” Francis says, who is an Arthritis honoree.

His best advice he says is staying positive and hoping one day a cure will be found.

"My message for people is to do as much as you can in your circumstances, it’s different for everyone, people are affected differently by arthritis severe to less severe so with what you have just do as much as you can," Francis says.

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