JACKSONVILLE — Hundreds of runners showed up with bells on Saturday at Christus Mother Frances Hospital–Jacksonville for the third annual Jacksonville Jingle Jog 5K and Fun Run.

The family-oriented event, sponsored by the hospital, was open to runners and walkers, adults and children.

The event course, which started at the hospital, took participants through the winding trails of the adjacent Nichols Green Park. Participants were given bells to jingle along the way, and Santa made a special appearance by arriving in a helicopter.

According to hospital Chief Operating Officer Anne Pileggi, the event has grown each year since its inception in 2017.

“We had about 240 the first year, and about 265 last year. We actually sold out this year with 350 participants,” she said.

Asked what inspired her to create the event, Pileggi said, “I started the Jingle Jog as a community event to encourage everyone to get out and enjoy themselves as we welcome the Christmas season. I particularly wanted this event to promote wellness and fitness in Jacksonville.

“I feel strongly that this event promotes healthy activity and family fun in our community while providing scholarship dollars for our local high school seniors. It is really a great way to kick off the holiday season.”

Rusk resident Cheryl Miller, who did the run with her husband, said this is her second year to participate.

“I’ve been doing some 5K and 10K runs this year to get better at jogging. My goal is to do a half marathon one day,” she said. “This event is extra special because it’s fun to see all the kiddos when Santa shows up; they hand out a pretty awesome medal, too.”

All participants received a Jingle Jog T-shirt and snow globe medal, and the first 50 finishers also received a special Jingle Jog glass.

Proceeds from the event go to the local Rotary Club’s scholarship fund that supports Jacksonville High School graduating seniors who are seeking to further their education after graduation.

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