Each year, more than 600 communities nationwide participate in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s to help fund the Alzheimer’s Association’s mission to advance Alzheimer’s care, support and research across the world. On Sept. 9, the Walk to End Alzheimer’s – Fayetteville, NC, takes place at J.P. Riddle Stadium (home of the SwampDogs).
“Registration is from 9-10 a.m.,” Alzheimer’s Association Special Events Manager Jennifer Briand said. “Several things will be going on during that time: our sponsors will have tables set up for walkers to visit; we will have a clown; a magician; a bounce house; princesses and super heroes; and a local radio station broadcasting from the event.”
The Promise Garden Ceremony begins at 10 a.m., followed by the walk around the stadium. The walk is about a mile long. “It is not a race,” said Fayetteville Walk to End Alzheimer’s Planning Committee Chairperson and Regional Sponsor Julie Russo. “It is about coming together. We want everyone to be able to participate, so we keep it short. In the past, we have had people with Alzheimer’s walk with us and caregivers and people in wheelchairs.” Russo added that it is free to participate and everyone is welcome.
The Promise Garden Ceremony preceeding the walk is a vital, heartfelt part of the morning. It brings together all the participants who commit to fulfilling their promise to remember, to honor, to care — and to fight Alzheimer’s disease. Using colored flowers, the ceremony also symbolizes and honors the four ways people are touched by the disease and the many reasons people come together to participate in the event. Blue flowers represent someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Purple flowers are for someone who has lost a loved one to Alzheimer’s. Yellow represents someone who is currently caring for or supporting someone with Alzheimer’s. Orange is for everyone who supports the cause and vision of a world without Alzheimer’s.
Virtual walkers are invited to participate as well. “You will still be given your own participant center to spread awareness and ask for donations; however, in the registration process you are letting people know you will not physically be there,” Briand said.
She added that she loves the way this event brings families and companies together in the fight against Alzheimer’s. “It gives people the opportunity to make a difference and support each other through this devastating disease,” she said. “It lets people know they aren’t alone.”
So often, people suffer in silence and face unnecessary isolation during an already stressful time. It doesn’t have to be that way. While there is nothing like the camaraderie of an annual gathering to share an experience or fight for a cause, the Alzheimer’s Association supports caregivers, families and patients all year long.
“I wish people were aware of the plethora of resources the association provides to help people,” Braind said. For example, there is a 24/7 help line dedicated to answering simple questions about support groups and resources in communities across the United States. There are also licensed care consultants with master’s-level training able to provide care plans for families. The Alzheimer’s Association’s website, www.alz.org, provides a community resource finder, blogs, clinical trials and more. “In addition, I wish people knew that Alzheimer’s disease does not only affect older individuals, but symptoms may start in your 30s, 40s and 50s, and entire families are impacted,” Briand said.
Briand noted that the association helps caregivers by providing free resources such as communication strategies and information on behaviors associated with Alzheimer’s. The association provides the 24/7 help line. The consultants at the help line also provide specifics to the local chapters for follow-up and face-to-face meetings. “We train volunteers to become support group facilitators and host support groups once a month across Eastern North Carolina,” she said. “Finally, we are partnering with Transitions Guiding Lights on the Caregivers Summit in Chapel Hill on Aug. 22.”
Another way people can help is to support the Alzheimer’s Association by spreading awareness. Engage on social media during June, which is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month. Sign up for Alzheimer’s Impact Movement, which is the association’s 501c-4 dedicated to advocacy. Ask your employer to host a lunch and learn to educate co-workers on the basics of Alzheimer’s disease.
Visit act.alz.org or call (919) 803-8285, ext. 8344 to register for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s – Fayetteville, NC.