Jackie Gingrich Cushman

My sister, Kathy, was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis 20 years ago. This past spring, one of us talked the other into committing to walk a marathon (26.2 miles) to raise money and awareness for the Arthritis Foundation. Since we made that fateful decision, we have persuaded three other women to join us in traveling to Athens, Greece to retrace the route of the original marathon on Nov. 4.

“Arthritis is still the nation’s most common cause of disability, affecting more than 46 million Americans, including 300,000 children,” said Arthritis Foundation spokesman Ken Durden. The foundation’s “Joints-in-Motion” program “is a great way for anyone who understands the seriousness of the disease to help raise awareness and funds to prevent, control and cure this chronic and often debilitating condition.”

Our team, which we named “America to Athens for Arthritis (A2A4A),” includes Phyllis Head, one of Kathy’s closest childhood friends, Jeanne Cadwallader, a neighbor of Kathy’s, Cynthia Counts, my great friend and running partner, and me. As many teams do, we have even created our own mantra, “Walk on,” which reflects our team’s goal of moving forward with purpose.

The mantra was a term that Jeanne coined, according to her, “it was a bit of a joke (aka Move On) but it did capture a level of enthusiasm for the project. As we started to use it...it became clear that it really does provoke a sense of encouragement for others on the team, comradery, and commitment to the cause. And it just seems like a nifty way to end a note.”

As to how we initially got involved, Kathy and I accuse each other of having been the instigator; Phyllis asked to join after hearing her “very best friend Kathy talk about the marathon;” Jeanne was drawn in by the destination; and Cynthia realized only after participating in a 7:30 a.m. conference call, “my God, I just agreed to do a marathon in Athens, Greece.”

Joints-in-motion program participants are assigned an electronic coach to assist with training, planning distances, answering questions and ensuring that not only will we finish the marathon, but (I hope) we will feel good once it is complete.

Jeff Galloway, U.S. Olympian and best-selling author, is our ecoach. “My grandmother contracted a severe case of arthritis when she was 35 and was crippled and in pain for the rest of her life,” said Jeff, “yet she was one of the most consistently cheerful people I’ve encountered.”

“We need to do all we can to find cures for the various forms of arthritis. Helping advise runners with the Joints-in-Motion program is one small way to pay back my wonderful grandmother.”

Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Jackie Gingrich Cushman is a speaker, syndicated columnist, socialpreneur, and author of "The Essential American: 25 Documents and Speeches Every American Should Own," and co-author of “The 5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours”.