Unlike typical December shoppers rushing through the malls, the two little girls kept a slow, steady pace.
Their eyes didn't linger onthe store windows decorated with bright holiday displays because they weren't looking for presents to buy.
They were concentrating on completing a mile of steps.
Dressedin "Christmas-sy red," with bells jingling on their shoes, Westminster residents Adrienne A. Liszka, 8, and Courtney L. Farley, 9, walkedthrough Hunt Valley Mall without missing a step.
"We did have a Power Bar snack, while we were walking," said Adrienne of the candy, which she called "athletic energy food."
About 50 other children and adults walked with the girls. About 600 more people ran outside theBaltimore County mall in the frosty winter air in the Jingle Bell Run for Arthritis, staged to raise money for the Arthritis Foundation. The event was one of four scheduled across the state Dec. 8.
About200,000 children nationwide have arthritis, which affects one in seven people, Mott said. In Maryland, about 640,000 people have the disease.
As the foundation's state poster child, Adrienne has been in the spotlight often this year. A video of her "working out" in physical education class at Robert Moton Elementary will probably be televised at the foundation's national telethon in April, said her mother, Nancy Mott.
Adrienne, who has polyartecular arthritis in the joints of her arms and legs, said she was eager to participate in the walk. Her mother made her promise to take her time.
"Adrienne always tries her best," her mother said. "She always does her best too. But she can only do so much."
Courtney could easily have finished the walk in less than 30 minutes, well ahead of her friend. Instead, she stayed at Adrienne's side, often taking her hand, encouraging her to finish the Candy Cane Walk, a less strenuous part of the fund-raising event.
"Adrienne has some trouble walking," said Courtney, who often spends recess walking with her friend around the school playground. "I just wanted to help her."
Adrienne, who was diagnosed with arthritis when she was 18 months old, couldn't run. She asked Courtney to join her in the effort to help raise money for research into the crippling disease. Courtney's mother, Karen, said she was more than happy to sponsor her daughter with a pledge for the walk.
"Courtney wanted desperately to go," said Karen. "She has gone to other events like this with Adrienne, including a county Tournament of Champions. She was out of bed like a dart early that morning and was ready to leave in 15 minutes."
Courtney and Adrienne became fast friends whenAdrienne moved here from Ohio nearly three years ago.
"We like toplay together on the slide and swings at school," Courtney said. "Welike to draw pictures, too."
Adrienne proudly shows off her latest artwork, pictures of Pinocchio and Bambi. The girls both proved their stage presence, playing mannequins in their third grade Christmas play.
Adrienne rarely lets her disability hold her back, said her mother. She attends Brownie meetings and religious education classes at St. John Roman Catholic Church. She keeps her mother fairly busy too.
In addition to three weekly visits to the Maryland Arthritis Center in Owings Mills for physical therapy, Mott works with her daughter at home.
"I always feel better after I exercise," Adrienne said. "Swimming is my favorite."
In the family dining room, a paraffin waxer remains plugged in all the time. Adrienne can soothe her painful joints, easing her wrist or elbow into the hot solution when painflairs up. Dampness and cold can reek havoc with arthritic patients,Mott said.
"Adrienne rarely misses school," her mother said. "Sometimes in bad weather, I have to carry her to the bus, but she goes."
The child also takes three different medicines to lessen the swelling in her joints and to control the pain. One unsuccessful -- and painful -- treatment involved injections of liquid gold.
"Oh, don'ttalk about it," the child said. "I remember how it hurt."
Mott said she was proud of her daughter's attitude and progress. People witharthritis often don't grow at normal rates, she said.
"For two years, from age 3 to 5, Adrienne wore a size 2 toddler," her mother said.
"I wear a size 8 now and I just made 50 pounds," Adrienne said proudly.
Mott had high praise for the state foundation, which keeps parents of young arthritics informed on the latest developments andtreatments.
"I always thought arthritis was an older person's disease," Mott said. "It takes so many forms. I have spent hours in the library, reading books about it, and I have learned a whole differentlanguage."
Mott constantly remains aware of her daughter's condition, but she said she helps the child focus on the positive.
"If Icould take all that pain myself, I would," Mott said. "She's gone through a lot without a complaint. She's a little soldier."
The respect is mutual, which is evident in Adrienne's answer to what she wants for Christmas.
"I want peace all over the world and flowers for Mom," she said, adding that "hair things" would be nice too.
Adrienne can't straighten the little finger on her left hand and probably will have to undergo joint replacement surgery, when she is older. Right now, though, the ailment doesn't stop her from enjoying her favorite Maryland food -- steamed crabs.
In fact, Adrienne lets very little stop her.