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More than 350 people participated in the Jingle Bell Run/Walk for Arthritis at Bloomington's Central Catholic High School last year. The 31st annual event moves back to Heartland Community College this Sunday.

NORMAL — Central Illinoisans will have a chance to get a leg up on the nation's No. 1 cause of disability — and do it with bells on.

The 31st annual Jingle Bell Run/Walk for Arthritis, a McLean County tradition and the largest area fundraiser of the year for the Arthritis Foundation, returns to the Heartland Community College campus, 1500 W. Raab Road, at 1 p.m. Sunday after a year at Central Catholic High School.

"Seeing the growth in our numbers this year, we needed a little more space and we have that at Heartland," said Ashley Craig, Arthritis Foundation executive director for Central Illinois and Indiana.

"The numbers (of people with arthritis) are on the rise so it's really a disease that affects everyone," Craig said.

Arthritis is the No. 1 cause of disability in the United States, she said. There are more than 100 types of arthritis, which attack joints and surrounding tissue, causing pain, swelling, stiffness, decreased range of motion and diminished quality of life.

One in four American adults, or 54 million people, have arthritis, she said. In addition, 300,000 children have arthritis or another rheumatic condition.

In Illinois, 2.3 million adults have arthritis and 13,100 children live with arthritis or a related disease, she said.

"It's such a prevalent disease but it often is a hidden disease," Craig said.

"That's why the Jingle Bell Run is so important to so many people," she continued. "It's a great way to bring awareness to what people with arthritis go through."

Money raised at the run goes to Arthritis Foundation-funded research, programs and services.

"We would love to have 350 participants and raise $50,000 this year," Craig said.

The centerpieces of the event are a 5-kilometer run and a 1-mile run, both beginning at 1 p.m. In keeping with tradition, participants will wear jingle bells, and there will be a costume contest.

A kids' fun run will happen at 2 p.m., followed by an awards presentation at 2:30 p.m.

Indoor activities in Heartland's Fitness and Recreation Center will begin at 11:30 a.m. and include children's activities by Children's Discovery Museum and a "warrior area" where people with arthritis can meet and support each other.

The "warrior area" replaces the traditional youth and adult honorees. "We are celebrating all of our warriors this year," Craig said.

Online registration is open until noon Friday at www.jbr.org/bloomington and costs $40 for the main run and $20 for the kids' fun.

Registration also may happen during packet pickup from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Fresh Thyme, 403 N. Veterans Parkway, Bloomington, and at Heartland before the run for $5 more.

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Contact Paul Swiech at (309) 820-3275. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_swiech

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Health Reporter

Health reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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