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Hundreds sought for Arthritis Walk's Gwinnett debut

DACULA - Lisa Bielstein knows the crippling grip of Rheumatoid Arthritis and Sjogrens Syndrome.

Ten years ago this month, Bielstein could not work, drive a car or perform simple tasks for herself or her family. Taking a shower, back then, was a big undertaking.

With the help of a "great" rheumatologist and years of treatment, Bielstein is closing the door on her arthritic debilitation.

"Many others don't have that (option) and need to get their lives back," Bielstein said. "One in every four Georgians is affected by arthritis ... if you don't have it yourself, you probably know someone who does."

Bielstein, now a logistics chair and volunteer with the Arthritis Foundation's Georgia Chapter, was instrumental in luring the agency's annual walk to Gwinnett this year.

The Saturday event - dubbed the 2008 Arthritis Walk Gwinnett - is the only walk for arthritis north of Atlanta. The charity stroll is open to everyone.

Walkers will partake in a three-mile trek around the Rabbit Hill Soccer Park in Dacula, or a one mile option will be offered for those who can't complete the longer route.

Arthritis is no stranger to Gwinnett.

More than 160,000 Gwinnettians - both adults and children - are affected by arthritis, said Theresa Lawrence-Ford, M.D., medical director of the North Georgia Rheumatology Group.

"We must be proactive in supporting (the Arthritis Foundation's) efforts to help our patients, family, friends and those who we have yet to meet," Lawrence-Ford said.

There is no registration fee for the Gwinnett walk, though donations are encouraged. Official walk T-shirts will be distributed to teams who raise at least $100 in sponsorships, Bielstein said. Sign-in starts at 9 a.m., followed by the walk a half-hour later.

Pet owners are invited to bring their leashed dogs to join the festivities.