Farragut teen works to change face of arthritis

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Saturday's Jingle Bell Run's largest team's backing a Farragut High School senior giving a new face to arthritis.

"People think it's an old person's disease. You know, you're 18 and you have arthritis? I've worked really hard to get the word out," said Kristen McAllister.

"She amazes me every day. She really is my hero," said Kristen's sister Lauren McAllister.

Kristen was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis at age 13, but her symptoms showed earlier on.

"We think I had symptoms as early as age three. We didn't even know anything was wrong. I was a gymnast and so my parents and coaches just thought I was in pain from falling off the balance beam that day or something," said McAllister.

Last summer, Kristen attended Camp Mash in Alabama. There she met more of the 300,000 kids dealing with the same disease. She also met the doctor who's now giving her the treatment that's giving her a better quality of life.

"He is just my hero. He's helped me get my life back," said McAllister.

Twice a week McAllister gets highly medicated injections, and once a month she goes to Alabama for an I.V. treatment.

"Some mornings I can't walk. You know, just like the normal teenage girl, I can't go to school on time. I'm on a modified school schedule," said McAllister.

But it's not slowing her down. She's got more than 200 people signed up for her Jingle Bell team "Kmac's Crew." She's also raised more than $14,000, making her the highest fundraiser for this year's race.

Friends at Farragut High have helped by selling jingle bell cards to decorate the cafeteria. Each is a one dollar minimum, but some have donated as much as $20 for one bell. After three weeks of fundraising, the students have raised more than $400.

"I feel like I have a lot of support, and I don't have to walk this journey alone," said McAllister.

"Kmac's Crew" will join 2,000 other walkers and runners in downtown Knoxville Saturday morning.

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