Hope fills the air in the Alzheimer’s Walk
Teams are often formed for the Mount Airy’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s Disease to honor a family member with the disease, but a contingent of K&D Signs represented several victims on Saturday – testimony of the legions it affects.
Team member Dawn Swinney single-handedly lost two close relatives, her mother, Viola Bartley, and her brother, Randy Bartley.
The death of Swinney’s mother at 88 in July 2020 is still fresh on her mind, which fits the profile of victims who are generally in the older age group. The death of his brother, meanwhile, shows how Alzheimer’s disease does not spare others in the theft of his mental abilities, as he died at 62 of a younger form which, according to Swinney, was linked to frontal lobe disease.
Swinney was not alone, with fellow Mount Airy K&D Signs team member Jesse Bowman reporting he had lost his grandmother, Nancy Johnson, to Alzheimer’s disease.
However, Swinney suggested that with numbers like this comes strength, as exemplified by the hundreds of people of all ages who gathered for Saturday’s event at Riverside Park for a universal cause.
“It’s amazing that so many people can come together and share the same grief and share their support,” she said of the annual walk. It serves as a fundraiser for research and resources, including a 24/7 hotline, while building awareness.
The march highlighted that amid all the recent attention to COVID-19, other longer-term threats to the well-being of society remain, including Alzheimer’s disease and associated dementias. .
An estimated 180,000 people are now living with the disease in North Carolina, according to David Bumgarner, who hosted an opening program for the walk on Saturday. For the United States as a whole, the number is over 6 million, with more than 11 million people serving as unpaid caregivers, Bumgarner added.
“As the prevalence of this disease continues to rise, the cost of care is in the billions of dollars. “
Success despite COVID
The annual Mount Airy event did its part for the fundraising aspect by generating $ 63,000 as of Saturday morning, according to CEO Katherine Lambert of the Western Carolina Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, which hosts several walks across the region. region.
This sum, which exceeded this year’s target at the local level, was expected to increase as more donations and other income were accrued.
“Oh, that’s an incredible number,” Lambert said of the generated figure, which was a question mark this year, with many financial resources strained by COVID-19.
The 2020 Walk to End Alzheimer’s Disease was a big deal. It was based on a virtual approach involving people participating individually or in small groups on sidewalks, trails and trails across Surry County through a “walk is everywhere” model.
Saturday’s return to top form drew huge crowds to Riverside Park, with Lambert mentioning that 340 people had registered for the event, with more signing up when they arrived, as well as a record 62 teams.
Keep up the fight
Representatives of a group faithfully participating in the marches over the past several years were there as usual, Team Phill, named Phill Whitaker, Surry County’s first home inspector.
He attended the event until his death in February 2020 after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for over 15 years.
But Whitaker’s widow, Phyllis, was there to carry the torch on the walk along the Ararat River Greenway, or more specifically a Team Phill sign – saying she thinks it’s important to keep the cap even if he’s gone.
“We are just trying to raise enough money to help other people,” said Ms Whitaker, who was there with other family members. “There are so many who are struggling.
Funds were generated between the teams through a variety of mini fundraisers, which included activities such as selling donuts.
G & B Energy was apparently the top player, making nearly $ 9,000 towards the goal, according to preliminary numbers compiled on Saturday.
The teams will continue to fundraise until Dec.31, according to Pam Padgett, who co-chaired this year’s walk.
“Cases have increased since the start of the pandemic and this support is crucial. “
Hope is great
Despite everyone’s efforts to be as normal as possible during the pandemic era, Saturday’s event was not your typical walk for a cause.
Over the past few years, all of the participants have walked the Green Lane at the same time, but on Saturday they were asked to do so at different times in order to expand and achieve social distancing, with choices of one-mile and two-mile routes.
The need to wear masks and use hand sanitizer was also highlighted and other measures implemented, including contactless registration and the availability of “mobile wallets” for donations.
However, all of this did not diminish the spirit of the occasion.
“Alzheimer’s disease doesn’t stop and neither do we,” Bumgarner, the master of ceremonies, said during the opening program, his remarks being greeted with vigorous applause from the crowd.
He also referred to the presence of small flowers being held by many of those gathered – part of a cornucopia of color that also includes eye-catching T-shirts worn by members of the respective teams.
As an example, purple flowers have been exhibited by those who have lost someone to Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia and yellow flowers by those who care for or support people living with these. conditions.
“No matter what color you hold, one thing is the same – these flowers have a lot of fighting in them,” Bumgarner continued.
“I am convinced that – one day – we will add a flower,” he said, holding a white flower representing the first possible survivor of Alzheimer’s disease.
Tom Joyce can be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.