Walking to celebrate

Arthritis Walk raises $18,000 for research to help those with the disease

Some of the walkers participating in the Blount County Arthritis Walk are, from left, Karen Thurman, Abbey Sheppard and Tonya Feel.

Photo by Jolanda Jansma

Some of the walkers participating in the Blount County Arthritis Walk are, from left, Karen Thurman, Abbey Sheppard and Tonya Feel.

Rain didn’t keep walkers from participating in the ninth annual Blount County Arthritis Walk in downtown Maryville on May 2.

Julia Whipple, development and services coordinator with the East Tennessee Arthritis Foundation, said walkers and sponsors raised $18,501 at the event.

There were 13 teams who about $13,000 total. “The remaining funds were raised in sponsorships - $6,700 was raised from sponsorships and individuals,” she said.

Whipple said people were excited the event came back to Blount County. “We had some new teams that came out of Knoxville. They were very excited we had it back here in Blount,” she said. “A lot of people enjoyed the new venue. I’m really excited for growth as we gear up next year.”

Whipple said the amount raised this year is less than what was raised in years past. “We weren’t here last year,” she said, explaining that organizers moved the event to Knox

County for a more regional feel and to help weather the economic downturn. Bringing the walk back to Blount County will now be a decision that will stand.

“Basically due to the economy there wasn’t enough staff to do a walk in Blount,” said Whipple. “It was the Blount County and Knox walk, and it was held in Knoxville in 2009.”

Whipple said returning the event to Blount County this year meant reinventing it with a new course that utilized Founders Park, downtown Maryville and parts of the Greenbelt Park. “We combined Knox and Blount County walks and now Blount County is our excellent host to all of East Tennessee,” she said.

The coordinator said this year was the ninth year as Blount County Arthritis Walk. “That is the way we billed it, but next year we will rename it the East Tennessee Arthritis Walk,” she said.

Whipple said the East Tennessee Arthritis Foundation’s mission is to provide leadership in the prevention, control and cure of arthritis and its related diseases. “There over 100 different diseases relative to arthritis, and we raise funds to provide educational literature, public forums, exercise classes, and we’re the largest contributor to research to find a cure in the United States,” she said. “We also do advocacy in Washington, D.C. In addition, we provide scholarships to select families to conferences and camps.”

Honorary chair of this year’s walk was Laura Harrill, and Marty Millsaps and Sherri Gardner Howell of Blount Today were walk co-chairs.

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