On Saturday, September 24th, the Lupus Foundation hosted its annual Lupus Loop 5K at Station Square.  This year marked the 21st year that participants came together in support of the Lupus Foundation of Pennsylvania and their mission to promote awareness, education, service and research for those affected by the disease.

Hundreds of locals joined Pittsburgh’s Action News 4 Meteorologist, Ray Petelin and for festivities that kicked off with skaters and runners tackling the loop at 9 am, followed by walkers and their favorite four legged friends.  The event, presented by Hefren Tillotson and event chair Melissa Franko, included health information and refreshments provided by Pittsburgh Barbecue Company and Texas de Brazil.  There was also plenty of entertainment on hand including the contemporary gospel group – Voices of Christ and Butler’s favorite singer/songwriter – Mary Lou Scherder.  A highlight of the event was John Vento Acoustic, performing with daughter, Alaina.

“Watching my mother struggle with Lupus at a very young age (she died at 38) gave me a close-up view of devastating effects of this terrible disease,” said John Vento. “ We are so happy to help the foundation which offers great support to those diagnosed & their families.”

Guests heard firsthand about living with the disease from honoree & Lupus Hero, Melissa Terrell, who had been back and forth to the doctor, and in and out of the hospital multiple times before her Lupus diagnosis. “They told me I had diabetes, depression, migraines, work stress, and the list went on,” said Melissa.  “Then at my daughters’ kindergarten graduation, all the families took pictures outside in the garden of the elementary school, including me.  That evening, my skin began to swell and itch and turn a bright red color everywhere the sunlight had touched.  In the morning, I found myself in a doctors’ office covered in bandages and ice packs.”

Melissa was diagnosed with Lupus; Systemic & Discoid Lupus to be exact. The latter, a chronic photosensitive skin condition with sores, inflammation and scaring. “I had second and third degree burns everywhere,” said Melissa.

That was the beginning of a long road of severe Lupus related issue for Melissa over the last ten years; a road that she has learned to navigate with strength and grace.  Melissa credits much of her resiliency to great care from talented doctors and nurses and valuable wisdom, education and support through her foundation support group.

Speaking to other struggling Lupus patients Melissa said, “Be grateful for the life you’ve been given, and the resilience you’ll show people you have if you just humble yourself and focus on every hour being the best one yet.  It is imperative that we recognize that we must work to find a cure. We can do it – if we do it together!”

Lupus Foundation Executive Director, Lori McCann knows it takes a village and a lot of small “steps” to incite change.  In 1975, their founder Barbara Vandergrift had Lupus and no answers.  Thanks to Barbara’s passion there was a grassroots movement and now the Lupus Foundation exists and serves families throughout 61 counties in Pennsylvania.

“Thank you to everyone who came out to make the 21st Annual Lupus Loop 5k Walk/Run/Skate a success,” said Lori McCann.  “Money raised from this event will help the Lupus Foundation of PA to continue providing much needed service to the over 66,000 patients like Melissa in PA, through education, support, awareness and research.”