By Lora Scripps
When it comes to raising awareness for meningitis, family and friends of the late Jessica Elkins are doing things a little different this year.
The group has been busy planning the first Jessica Elkins Meningitis Fun Run slated for 4 p.m. Thursday, May 2, at Cowart Elementary School.
The fun run is free to all Limestone County kids and will include a free meningitis vaccination clinic.
“We decided on a fun run to get kids of all ages involved,” said Athens-Limestone Foundation Director Shelli Waggoner. “And we threw in color since that isn’t something normally done.”
“This is a fun run for the whole family (all ages),” said Michelle Elkins, Jessica’s mother. “You can walk or run at your own pace around the track as many times as you want.”
The group recommends that participants wear a white T-shirt and sunglasses.
“The paint is powder (made with flour, corn starch and food coloring) and you might get sprayed with a water gun to make the color brighter,” Elkins said. “It could be a little messy, but fun. We will have drinks and refreshments on-site and everything is free.”
Athens-Limestone volunteers including certified nurses and pediatricians will be on hand issuing meningitis shots, which are recommended for ages 11-21. An ambulance will also be on-site.
“If you were vaccinated at age 11, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending a booster at 16,” Elkins said.
Vaccinations are free. Those who have insurance should bring insurance cards to the event. The co-pay for vaccinations will be covered. A parent or guardian must be present to sign a liability form. “We will have forms to fill out and it will be handled just like going to the doctor,” Elkins said.
Last year, 83 children were vaccinated during a similar meningitis shot clinic.
“We want to just have fun and remember Jess and how fast your life can change,” Elkins said. “Every vaccine we give is one life we hope to save from this horrible disease.”
“It is free, fun and for a great cause,” added Waggoner.
The hope is to hold a Color 5K and Fun Run for years to come.
Jessica Elkins died of spinal meningitis on Dec. 26, 2007. After her passing the Elkins family and friends have kept her memory alive by spreading awareness and hosting shot clinics to combat the aggressive disease.