CHARLOTTE -- Runners and walkers of all ages took part in the 4th Annual “Fight the Flame 5K” Sunday morning at McAlpine Creek Park, raising money for a degenerative neurological disease called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS).
The disease leaves patients like Beth Stillitano in constant pain, often feeling sensations of burning or stabbing throughout her body.
Stillitano's son founded the race four years ago as a service project in honor of his mother.
She said the best part of the event is connecting with other people in the area with the invisible disease. She said the disease is not widely known about, and that before Fight the Flame she had never met another CRPS patient.
"That first race we met over 20 to 25 people that live in Charlotte or around Charlotte. None of us had known each other. We all have this disease. We all have made a bond,” Stillitano said.
In addition to her chronic pain, Stillitano said she also constantly fights the battle of “looking” normal to others who are unaware of her disease.
She wants the public to be more tolerant of invisible afflictions like CRPS, especially when patients use their handicap stickers or canes out in public.
“Just because someone looks perfectly fine, you don’t know what's going on inside of them," she said.
All of the proceeds from Sunday's race will benefit a national CRPS organization for research.
To date, the Fight the Flame 5K has raised more than $80,000.