Bellingham Jingle Bell Run

The 31st annual Bellingham Jingle Bell Run is expected to draw the largest number of participants in its history this year. The event, set for Dec. 8 starting at Bellingham High School, typically hosts 2,000–3,000 participants and up to 150 fundraising teams.


Festivities begin at 8 a.m. The day’s events include a 5K (3.1-mile) run, a one-mile run, a “Run with the Elves” event for kids, and a Dog Trot, featuring colorful costumes. As part of the tradition, jingle bells are handed to each participant to tie to their shoes. All proceeds go to the Arthritis Foundation, which funds arthritis research and community programs, like Mount Vernon’s Kat-Fish Camp for children with arthritis.

Many of the teams get donations, raising money for the cause on behalf of individuals close to them with arthritis.


The run is among the top five Jingle Bell Runs in the country, surpassing the likes of major metropolitan areas like Chicago, Kansas City, and even Atlanta, the city in which the Arthritis Foundation is based. Every business and organization sponsor for the Bellingham event is local, rather than large corporations.


The run is almost entirely executed by Lori McKnight, who serves as the Jingle Bell Run coordinator and the Arthritis Foundation development director. She conducts outreach to local sponsors, works with community members who are involved, and almost single-handedly plans the event.

The event highlights one or two individuals as “honorees” to tell their story about a disability which affects one in four people in the United States.

“Every year we highlight several individuals with arthritis, and we honor them telling their stories,” says McKnight. “It brings more education and awareness to people attending the event.”

One of the honorees chosen for this year’s Jingle Bell Run is Sally-Jo Bakken, 67. She had been asked to be an honoree before, but turned it down, saying she wanted people to know it’s a disability that affects not only older people, but younger ones like 24-year-old Aja Ruswick, the race’s young-adult honoree this year.

“People think ‘Oh, arthritis? That’s your grandparents,’ and I want them to realize that it is also a young person’s dis-ease as well and that’s where the heartbreak is,” Bakken says.


Ruswick says she was diagnosed with arthritis when she was 12. She went to Kat-Fish Camp and got resources she needed as a child with arthritis—precisely the type of person that benefits from an event like the Jingle Bell run. Since 2007, the event has raised more than $1.8 million for arthritis research and various programs, McKnight says.

2018 Jingle Bell Run
Bellingham High School
2015 Franklin St., Bellingham
360.733.2866 |

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"'Every year we highlight several individuals with arthritis, and we honor them telling their stories.'"