2018 Jingle Bell Run Honorees

Mike Schardein, DVM
St. Matthews Animal Clinic
Corporate Chair

We understand the impact of arthritis in people, but did you know that animals get arthritis too? Dr. Mike Schardein is all too familiar with the effects arthritis has on our pet population. A Louisville native, Dr. Schardein has been practicing veterinarian medicine since 1999 and understands the kinds of complications arthritis can have. “Arthritis is a problem for people and pets,” says Dr. Schardein. “Bringing awareness is the first step.  People, even children, are suffering.  Pets are suffering and many owners don’t know. We want to spread the word.”

Dr. Schardein says that early detection is key in successfully treating arthritis to ensure that patients can be properly treated so we can keep patients feeling good longer. He and the dedicated staff at his animal hospitals treat their arthritic patients in a number of ways, including physical therapy, exercise, medication, supplements, therapeutic laser, stem cell therapy, and acupuncture. 

As this year’s Corporate Chair, Dr. Schardein hopes to help spread the word about the impacts of arthritis on everyone affected. “Arthritis can be debilitating,” says Schardein. “I hope we can educate  more people, and it helps them or a family member - the two or four legged kind.  Raising money to support the Arthritis Foundation will increase funding for research, which benefits every living thing impacted by this disease….And we hope to get people to take their pets to the vet to be checked out.”

When Dr. Schardein isn’t working to help our pet population, he volunteers his time to various animal welfare organizations. He’s an avid horse racing fan and competitive runner, having completed multiple races. But most importantly he is devoted to his wife, three kids, two dogs and a fish. Grab your favorite four-legged companion and join Dr. Schardein at this year’s Jingle Bell Run!!

Janet Leon, MD
Rheumatology Associates
Medical Honoree

A physician at Rheumatology Associates, Dr. Leon is committed to using her medical expertise in a compassionate way to help ease the suffering experienced by her patients. By providing up-to-date care in a supportive environment, she is dedicated to improving the quality of life for all of her patients. Board certifitied in both internal medicine and rheumatology, Dr. Leon has expertise in a broad range of rheumatologic diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, spondyloarthropathies, lupus and vasculitis. She also serves as a fellow in the American College of Rheumatology. Dr. Leon is excited to share her passion for caring for our arthritis population as the Medical Honoree for this year's Louisville Jingle Bell Run. Join her on November 10th as we fight for a CURE!

Nicole Elver
Rheumatoid Arthritis
Adult Honoree

Nicole has been a runner for most of her life. She ran track and cross country growing up and has completed multiple full and half marathons. Therefore, a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis in January 2005 was heartbreaking.

She started experiencing pain in her hands during her first year of law school which would last for the next three years. After beginning her legal career, things escalated quickly and increased joint pain led to a decrease in running and difficulty with day to day activities. Eventually, Nicole’s condition declined to the point of not being able to climb stairs and being unable to bend and straighten her legs.  One morning, on her way to work, a stranger stopped and asked if she needed help.  At that moment it hit her – what if this was her new reality?  What if she could never run again?

After several years of seeing different specialists with no answers, Nicole was finally diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at the age of 29. Thankfully, with the doctor’s help, Nicole was able to get her disease under control and return to the activities she loved.

Nicole has now been living with RA for over thirteen years, and while it is mostly under control, she still has ups and downs. A mom to a baby boy, she sometimes has trouble with the simplest tasks…like changing diapers or snapping little snaps. And while she continues to practice law, sometimes RA affects her ability to get from her car to the office or courthouse.

But Nicole continues to fight and live her life, like the 1 in 3 women living with arthritis. As the 2018 Adult Honoree, Nicole hopes to share her story that is so similar to others who are fighting the same fight. Join her at this year’s event!

Zion Graf
Enthesitis Related Juvenile Arthritis
Young Adult Honoree

Zion Graf first learned that he had arthritis in June of 2016 at 15 years old. After experiencing extreme pain and swelling in both heels and his left knee for a year, he was diagnosed with Enthesitis Related Juvenile Arthritis. The diagnosis came as a shock because he didn’t fully understand what arthritis was, and he had never heard of a young person with the disease. He was also relieved, as he now knew what he was fighting and could work towards getting his pain under control. 

Arthritis changed Zion’s perspective on life. In two short years, he went from being able to do everything an average, active kid would do, to be limited and in pain. Before arthritis, playing sports was a big part of Zion’s life, and it was tough for him to not be able to play due to the pain. Once his pain was managed, Zion came to have a newfound love and respect not only for sports but for doing everyday things like waking up in the morning and experiencing little pain. Though there were times when Zion felt like giving up, he continued to do what he loved.

As this year’s Young Adult Honoree, Zion is participating in the 2018 Louisville Jingle Bell Run because he wants a brighter future for those with arthritis. He doesn’t want others to have to suffer from the same pain and sadness that he did. The Jingle Bell Run will help better the lives of those with arthritis and educate individuals.

Zion encourages others to participate in the Jingle Bell Run for several reasons. “It’s fun! My family and I had a blast last year,” says Zion. “Participating in the Jingle Bell Run supports a great cause and great people. I hope you will join me this year!”

Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis
Youth Honoree

Sinclaire was diagnosed with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA) in February 2017. Leading up to her official diagnosis, Sinclaire had months of hand swelling that led to visits with multiple doctors and surgery. While the operation turned out to be unnecessary, it did result in the correct diagnosis of JIA. The I in JIA stands for idiopathic, which means there is no known cause for Sinclaire’s arthritis.

At the time of her diagnosis, Sinclaire was five years old, so she did not really understand why she suddenly had to take so much medication. The first three months, she had to take two oral medications and receive a weekly injection. After a year of this routine and the success of the treatment, Sinclaire in down to one weekly injection. As arthritis can always flare up, it is essential that Sinclaire do everything her doctors tell her to do, including monitoring her pain levels and potential arthritis triggers.

Even though Sinclaire has arthritis, she can enjoy a variety of physical activities. Last year, she played volleyball at school, and recently she completed her second year of ballet and tap classes. Sinclaire is one of the 2018 youth honorees for the Louisville Jingle Bell Run, and she cannot wait to help raise money for the Arthritis Foundation. The 2018 JBR will be her second year participating in the event, and she is excited to help find a cure for arthritis, a disease that affects over 50 million people, including 300,000 children and teens. Please join Sinclaire in the fight against arthritis by signing up for this year’s Jingle Bell Run or, if you cannot attend, supporting JBR through the Jingle in Your Jammies program.

On behalf of all of those affected by arthritis, thank you for your support!

Systemic Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis
Youth Honoree

Freya was 7 months old when she developed a rash over her whole body, started having daily fevers, and was not acting like her usual, happy self. Freya’s mother, a nurse, sought out a diagnosis and so began a whirlwind two months of specialists, lab tests, MRIs and CTs, a bone marrow biopsy, and finally a diagnosis of Systemic Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis. Freya was nine months old at the time of her diagnosis.

After Freya’s little body didn’t tolerate the initial treatments of chemo and steroids, she was finally switched to a different class of medication when she was 16 months old and it was a game changer. After the first treatment, her family watched her transform into a happy, active toddler. Now 6 years old, Freya is a joyful, energetic child. Her infusions are every six months, and she handles them like a champ.

How has arthritis shaped Freya? For starters, she knows she can get through tough times, like IV sticks and tests and she is patient through doctor visits. However, the most noticeable thing about Freya is her empathy. Recently, she saw a woman in public put water through a feeding tube in her stomach.  Instead of being afraid, Freya beamed at her and asked, “Is that your IV? I get IV’s too, for my arthritis!” 

15 years ago, Freya’s story would be very different. Through the research and development of new treatments, many of which were funded by the Arthritis Foundation, she is thriving.  This will be Freya and her family’s second year participating in the Jingle Bell Run, and as this year’s 2018 Youth Honoree, Freya wants to help kids like her have a better life with arthritis. You can help too by joining Freya at this year’s event, she hopes to see you there!

Feline Honoree

Frosty is the beloved resident cat at the St. Matthews Animal Clinic and a fellow arthritis sufferer. At 12 years old, Frosty lives with progressive arthritis in his hips. Despite his chronic pain, Frosty spends his days greeting clinic clients and their pets and is proud to represent the many cats who are living with arthritis. He hopes you will join him in the fight against arthritis for all two and four-legged sufferers. Join his team today!

Canine Honoree

Like 1 in 5 dogs in the U.S., 14 year old Bailey is living with arthritis. Since his initial symptoms appeared 6 years ago, Bailey's family has helped him fight his arthritis through medications, laser therapy, massage, stem cell therapy and acupuncture. While he experiences arthritis pain most days, Bailey stays as active as he can and maintains his sweet and sunny demeanor. Bring your canine companions and join Bailey at this year's Louisville Jingle Bell Run. He hopes to see you there!!


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