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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

CLEC and Ken Knapp Ford celebrate 24 years of friendship through Jingle Bell Run

by Sylene Argent  

Leading up to the holiday season, Ken Knapp Ford hosted the 24th annual Jingle Bell Walk, Run, and Wheel in Essex Centre, which raised support, awareness, and funds for Community Living Essex County (CLEC).

  Last Wednesday, representatives of the local car dealership presented the $10,450, raised through the 2018 event, to representatives of the event beneficiary.

“We did good this year,” Tony DeSantis said, who is CLEC’s Manager of Community Relations and Resource Development. He noted the 2018 event was able to raise nearly $3500 more than the year prior.

The success of the Jingle Bell Run, DeSantis said, depends on many aspects, which includes having great participant and sponsor support. He was pleased to note around 400 individuals took part in the 2018 Jingle Bell Run, which had increased from the past. Great weather the day of the event helped ensure everyone who wanted to participate, could.

Those who participated in the event either walked or wheeled 5km, or ran a 5km or 10km course. All the participants either paid to enter the event, which was hosted with WRACE (Walkers & Runners Around the County of Essex), or collected pledges.

After crossing the finish line, participants were able to socialize and enjoy a prepared lunch.

A neat aspect of the event, DeSantis said, is that those who enjoy participating in the event for the exercise or to be involved in a competition, get to finish the course with some of the individuals CLEC supports. The event helps bring forward the need to support the local organization’s programs and supports to those who participate.

Karen Bolger, CLEC’s Executive Director, commented it is important for CLEC to be a part of the community to develop partnerships, and the local organization is extremely proud of the long-standing relationship it has with Ken Knapp Ford.

James Knapp, General Manager, and Faye Thibodeau, who works as part of the finance team at Ken Knapp, noted it is important to host the Jingle Bell Run every year as CLEC is a neighbour and many of its staff members and clients, over the years, have become friends.

“There really is a bond, a neighbourly, local relationship,” Thibodeau said of Ken Knapp and Community Living. “Their cause is phenomenal.”

Knapp said it is hoped the event can continue on as an important fundraiser for CLEC for many years to come.

A unique aspect to the 2018 installment of the Jingle Bell Run this year was that the Essex Ravens Pewee Major hockey team participated, and was able to raise $2100 for CLEC.

“They learned a lot,” Angel Kinde said of the group of 12-year-old athletes. Kinde works at Ken Knapp and is also a mother of a player on the team.

The reason the local hockey team got involved was to raise support and funds for a special cause in the community, to learn about giving back. They more than doubled their fundraising goal.    

DeSantis and Bolger noted many individuals dedicate a lot of time and effort into organizing the event.

“Each year, the Jingle Bell Run gets better and better, Bolger said. “Fundraising is important for our agency. This is a huge benefit for Community Living Essex County,” Bolger said.

Looking ahead, CLEC will host its annual Mayors’ Luncheon in May, which is Community Living Month in Ontario. He noted CLEC is always looking for more members. To learn more about the organization, or to discover volunteer opportunities, log onto

2019 will be a big year for CLEC as it will celebrate two milestone anniversaries as the Jingle Bell Run will be hosted for the 25th consecutive year, and the Ruthven Apple Festival will be celebrated for being a major fundraiser for CLEC for 40 years in September.


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