Champions of Yes

Join the Jingle Bell Run


What: Jingle Bell Run

When: 9 am Sat., Dec. 9

Where: Bellingham High School, 2020 Cornwall Ave

Cost: Entry fees vary

Info: http://www.jbr.org/bellingham

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

You might not know it by looking at them, but Karen Klokkevold and Brittany Western have a lot in common.

One thing the two women share is that they are both living with arthritis. Klokkevold was diagnosed with aggressive osteoarthritis in both of her hips in her mid-30s, and had her first total hip replacement when she was just 39. Western was only nine when she was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.

As honorees of the annual Bellingham Jingle Bell Run who were chosen because they embody the Arthritis Foundation’s “Champion of Yes” spirit, the duo have much more in common than their diagnosis. They are both fighters, and don’t let their illnesses stop them from doing the things they love.

To wit: Thirteen months after her surgery, Klokkevold walked the Bellingham Bay Half Marathon.

“I knew it was a lofty goal, but I also knew that with hard work, I could do it,” she says. “Six weeks after surgery, I was out walking my dogs on my own. Two months after surgery, I was riding my bike to work again. Four months after surgery, I hiked to Fragrance Lake!”

Even at a young age, Western also knew she didn’t want her diagnosis to define her existence. She pushed through her near-constant pain, tried not to get upset by schoolmates who accused her of faking her illness and decided early on she’d take advantage of the healthy years she has left. These days, you can find her playing NWAC college volleyball, with a further goal of playing beach volleyball in the NCAA division once she’s graduated.

“By looking at me, no one would know I have rheumatoid arthritis, or would know that I am in constant pain—and that is exactly the way I want things to be,” Western says. “I am not afraid to talk about the disease and share my experiences, but I don’t want special treatment, and I don’t want to be pitied. I just want people to understand. What I want is to inspire others like me to never let anything get in the way of what they want to accomplish.”

At the 30th annual Jingle Bell Run taking place Sat., Dec. 9 in downtown Bellingham—and nationwide throughout December—Klokkevold and Western will be among more than 3,000 residents taking a stand by raising money for local and national programs designed to help search for a cure in the fight against arthritis, something that affects 24 percent of Washington’s population (that’s 1,346,000 people).

If you’re among the costumed elves, Santas and reindeer taking part in the event, please know that what you’re doing makes a difference for those affected by arthritis in your community, and that those who are struggling with the disease will never stop fighting.

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