UPDATE: We are saddened to learn that sweet Sophie passed away January 7, 2018. Our hearts and prayers are with her family now and always.
On December 19, the playground and track at Bell Elementary School will be filled with students running and walking laps to raise money to help a new friend. Through their annual Jingle Bell Run, Bell students and administrators hope to raise $5,000 to help Sophie, a two-year-old Tyler girl who was diagnosed with Leukemia. The event marks the ninth year the Jingle Bell Run has benefited local children who are enduring chronic or terminal illnesses or severe injuries.
Organized by Bell Elementary School PE teacher Kristin Parker, the Jingle Bell Run began in 2009 when the school received word that one of their kindergarteners (Aileen Mancilla: now an eighth grade student at Moore MST), had a Stage IV Wilms Tumor on her kidney that had also spread to her lungs.
“When I heard this news, I heard a distinct voice that I know was God telling me to get up and do something,” Ms. Parker said. “At that minute, I emailed our principal and counselor to see if we could do some type of donation run for Aileen and her family. Within 10 minutes, I had a yes from both of them.”
When they all met together that September they set a goal to raise $5,000. By December, they had raised more than $8,000 for the Mancilla family.
“We didn’t really know if the run would continue due to the fact that we weren’t sure if there would be another student or family in a situation where they needed help with medical bills due to unforeseen circumstances,” Ms. Parker said.
For the first few years, there was an immediate need within our school walls, including a student with a brain tumor and another student hit by a drunken driver. Each year they rose between $5000-$7000 to give these families. Then, in 2013, Bell did not have an immediate need arise, so they stepped outside of school walls and reached out to others.
“I started by asking the other PE teachers if they knew of any student in their school that may have a medical issue that our Jingle Bell Run could help with,” Ms. Parker said. “I had one response from Caldwell Elementary. The student was Aneesa Cedillo. She had experienced a Ewing’s Sarcoma in her leg and the situation was extremely severe. Bell teamed with Caldwell to help Aneesa and her family. Again, even though the goal was $5,000, we were able to raise more than $7,000.”
In 2014, the beneficiary of the Jingle Bell Run was an Austin Elementary Student named Christian Arroyo, who was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia or ALL. In 2015, the Jingle Bell Run helped two students, another Caldwell student and a student from Cumberland Middle School. And in 2016, Bell student, Lauren Brown, who had a very severe injury in an all-terrain vehicle accident, was the beneficiary. Every year, the donations surpassed the $5,000 goal reaching more than $7,000.
“This year, we are stepping a little more outside of our comfort zone and helping the Tyler family of a 2-year-old little girl named Sophie,” Ms. Parker said. “Sophie has been struggling with Lymphoma and has spent the last 4-5 months in hospitals in Dallas and Ft. Worth. Once again our goal is $5,000, but our students are aiming to be able to give the family even more.”
Every Bell student commits to walk or run a certain number of laps and collects pledges per lap completed. Additionally, concession food and drinks, games and activities tickets are sold during the event.
For more information on how to make a donation to the Jingle Bell Run, please contact Bell Elementary School at 903-262-1820.
*Video created by Bell Elementary School students and staff