Jenna May continues to endure health issues from a severe eye condition, but that’s not stopping her from helping people who have helped her.
May, 14, of Mt. Greenwood, has fought juvenile arthritis, uveitis and Hashimoto’s disease, which have impacted her eyesight, for five years.
For the third straight year, May and her family will host Jenna’s Jingle Bell Bake Sale during the Mt. Greenwood Holiday Stroll on Friday, Dec. 6, beginning at 4 p.m.
Proceeds from the bake sale will support the Jingle Bell Run for Arthritis 5K, which is set for Dec. 14 at the Chicago History Museum, 1601 N. Clark St.
The run benefits the Arthritis Foundation, which has supported the May Family in recent years.
Chelsea May, Jenna’s mother, said the bake sale is a community effort.
“It’s just all home-baked goods that me and Jenna make or that we get donated from other people in the neighborhood,” Chelsea said. “We always ask people for donations, if they would like to make something and give it to us. Normally, we have a pretty good response throughout the neighborhood.”
The bake sale will be held at the 19th Ward Service Office, 3207 W. 111th St., just as it has the last two years. Most items will be priced at $1, Chelsea said, and merchandise supporting the family’s Jingle Bell Run team, “Through Jenna’s Eyes,” will be for sale.
May, a freshman at Whitney Young High School who graduated from Cassell Elementary School last spring, was diagnosed with her conditions in fourth grade. Juvenile arthritis affects joints in the musculoskeletal system, and it can cause uveitis, which affects the uvea, a layer of tissue beneath the white of the eye, and can cause reduced vision. Hashimoto’s disease, in which the immune system attacks the thyroid gland, can result in fatigue and muscle weakness.
Jenna May has taken numerous medications, her mother said, but this year has been difficult. She developed optic neuritis, an inflammation that damages the optic nerve, and lost almost all of her vision in her left eye. Doctors think that her medication contributed to the problem, so she stopped taking it temporarily.
Jenna also had glaucoma surgery on her right eye this summer, her mother said, which caused her to step down from her normal duties as a junior counselor with the Mt. Greenwood Special Recreation Association and go on bed rest.
May’s vision in her right eye is now “pretty good,” her mother said, but she “doesn’t have a lot” of sight in her left.
However, after a “tough summer,” May is thriving at Whitney Young. The Chicago Public Schools magnet school provides services to help her, and May is learning Braille and plans to form a club to teach students the language next year.
She also remains active in the religious-education program at St. Christina Roman Catholic Church.
Jenna’s health, her mother said, has stabilized.
“Since September, she’s been doing really good,” Chelsea said. “She’s had really good doctor visits every single month.”
The bake sale efforts have also been on the upswing, as the family also hosted sales at the 95th Street Farmers Market this year, and at St. Christina Church for the second straight year.
The family strives to support the Arthritis Foundation, Chelsea said, because the national non-profit organization has funded research and grants and pushed for the approval of medication that May has used.
The foundation has also supported the family financially, including for a trip this year to an arthritis conference in Minneapolis.
Jenna was also able to attend an Arthritis Foundation Juvenile Arthritis Camp in Ingleside, Ill., this summer, despite her health problems.
The camp’s cost was “minimal,” Chelsea said, and nurses were on site to care for campers.
The experience improved Jenna’s outlook.
“Through that group,” Chelsea said, “she’s been able to make some friends with peers her age who are going through the same thing.”
The Holiday Stroll will feature dozens of businesses on 111th Street offering promotions and holiday treats, with hundreds of people visiting the business corridor.
Past editions of the Jenna’s bake sale have drawn large crowds to the service office.
Chelsea May said hosting an event that supports the Arthritis Foundation was an easy decision.
“It’s such a great group to be with.”
For more information on the bake sale, email Chelsea May at chelseamaymay@
yahoo.com or visit the “Through Jenna’s Eyes” page on Facebook.
For more information on the Jingle Bell Run, visit the Arthritis Foundation website at arthritis.org.