There will be no “survivor’s lap” at this year’s Memory Walk for Alzheimer’s Disease because, as organizer Denise Andersen put it, “There just aren’t any survivors of this disease.”
Alzheimer’s is a disease that robs those afflicted of past, present and future memories. In the more advanced stages, it robs them of their independence by taking away their ability to perform the most common, everyday tasks, like turning off the stove or putting on their shoes.
Andersen is the Director of the North Big Horn County Senior Center. She thought it most appropriate that the center sponsor the walk since the disease mostly occurs in an elderly population.
“I thought this would be a good outreach for the center to increase awareness of the problem,” said Andersen, “since most members of our center are at the age where the disease touches their lives in some way.”
The Memory Walk started in 1989. Since then, millions have walked to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association and to help fund research to find a cure for the disease. Andersen started the walk nine years ago after watching a close friend slowly decline from the disease.
“I had a wonderful senior lady friend who I saw go from one of the most classy, intelligent, sassy women I’ve ever met to the point where she didn’t even recognize anybody,” she said. “My story could be anyone’s story. My story of this vital, important person on the earth, who turns from that into someone who doesn’t know where they are, what day it is, who their people are, could be anybody’s story.”
The walk will take place at the senior center in Lovell on September 17. Participants can walk as much or as little as they like.
“What we try to do is infuse a lot of fun in the walk,” explained Andersen. “It’s two hours. You can come and walk around the track once or you can walk around the track for two hours. There’s no real structure to it but we usually try to have entertainment and by that I mean different kinds of laps and fun games going on at the same time.”
The somewhat loose structure of the event allows both teams and individuals to make donations or collect donations for the cause.
This year’s walk will include fun laps designed to break up the monotony of walking around a track. The fun laps will include poker laps, kazoo laps, lip laps and bounce the ball laps. There will also be other fundraising events like a sneaker toss and a quilt raffle.
“It’s usually, knock on wood, a beautiful morning and we’re hoping the weather treats us right again this year,” said Andersen. “The good thing about having it at the senior center is that you can get in and out of the elements no matter what. It’s just kind of a beautiful, laid back way of doing something nice for someone else.”
Andersen hopes the event will raise $3,000 this year. She also hopes to raise awareness about the disease and plans to have an information table at the event for this purpose.
“Everyone develops a little bit of memory loss as they age,” said Andersen. “This is different. It really starts to become a bigger issue when you leave your stove on and can’t remember how to turn it off. When you can’t remember that milk goes in the refrigerator and not the oven.”
The event will take place on Sept. 17 from 8-10 a.m. Registration begins at 7:30 a.m., but participants can register any time during the walk. For more information contact Andersen at 548-6556. The Senior Citizens Center is located at 757 Great Western Ave. in Lovell.
By Patti Carpenter