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Alzheimer’s is a cruel and nasty disease. It affects not only the person afflicted but everyone who knows and loves them. Sadly, it does not have the attention that many other diseases receive. 

“There are lots of unanswered questions but what we know is that if it is good for your heart than it is good for your brain. So think eating well, exercising and reducing stress. That is something that we can hold on to that we know is true. Scientists say that they are close to a breakthrough but they lack the funding and the awareness that other diseases have. That is why this walk (the Walk to End Alzheimer’s) is so important. It is the sixth leading cause of death in the nation, there is no cure and there is no way to slow it down … It is also unreported. Many people die of Alzheimer’s complications but they are not reported on the death certificate,” explained Julie Russo, the Joe McKee Memorial Alzheimer’s Fund director and Fayetteville Walk to End Alzheimer’s co-chair. It is this knowledge that drives the annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s which is sponsored by the Joe McKee Memorial Alzheimer Fund. The walk is scheduled for Sept. 12.

The annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s is a labor of love. It requires a tremendous amount of preparation, organization and work both all year-round and the day of the event. Russo explained that there are 20 volunteers that help to plan the walk year-round and the day of the event they need more than 50 people to help out. In previous years, getting and organizing volunteers has been a challenge, but with experience and a firm base, it has improved every year. 

“Often I tap into my teacher skills. I was an elementary school teacher for 20 years and a lot of the skills are transferable like planning, recruiting and encouraging people. It’s not a one-time thing, you have to do it constantly. Whenever I go out I talk about the walk and try to tell people about it, I’m very tenacious,” Russo said. 

This year’s walk is going to be bigger and better than ever. Russo explained by saying, “We are constantly trying to be innovative and expand our reach. This year we are having our walk in the SwampDogs Stadium. Before we would always have it in one of our neighborhoods. I am the Director of Administration for McKee homes and my husband is Pat McKee so we have always had the walk in one of our neighborhoods. But now, because of our numbers we have outgrown that. So the SwampDogs have generously donated their entire stadium for the day of the walk and there is a baseball night for the walk. That is on July 29, at 6 p.m., and at the baseball game we will be auctioning off one of the uniforms, but it will be purple and have the emblem of the Alzheimer’s Association. All the proceeds from that night will go to benefit the walk. We are calling it Bringing Memories Home Safe. “

Along with a bigger location comes bigger goals, which are based on past performances and are designed to challenge and encourage participants. This year the fundraising goal is $69,000. They also aim to have 630 participants and 60 teams. Teams have never been a huge focus for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s before, but this year they are a major theme. Not only  have the  goals increased for team participation, there is also now a traveling trophy. The trophy, donated by Parks Building Supply and Interiors, is awarded to the corporate team that raises the most money by Oct. 1. The trophy will be displayed at the business until Sept. 1, 2016, when it returns to McKee Homes Design Center until the next year’s winner is determined. 

The 2015 Walk to End Alzheimer’s is on Sept. 12, 2015. Registration is at 9 a.m., the ceremony is at 10 a.m. and the walk begins at 10:30 a.m. The route length is two miles and it is held at the “SwampDogs’” J.P. Riddle Stadium, located at 2823 Legion Road. For more information, call 919-803-8285 or visit http://act.alz.org/site/TR?fr_id=7621&pg=entry. 

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