There continues to be no “survivor lap” at the annual Walk for Alzheimer’s, said organizer Denise Andersen. Once diagnosed, an individual can expect a steady decline in mental functions, usually over a long period of time. Total debilitation as a result of the disease is the end result. And there is no cure in sight.
The annual fundraising event, which was held in the parking lot of the senior center in Lovell, was the place to be on Saturday morning for a walk under sunny skies designed to raise awareness and needed funds to find a cure for the disease. As always, music and silly games like “hat laps” and “musical chairs” and poker kept participants entertained as they showed their support for those in the community afflicted by the disease.
“We try to show that this is a growing concern,” said Andersen, who is also the Director of North Big Horn Senior Center. “This is a disease that affects the elderly and it is appropriate for our center to raise awareness about the disease and to raise money to help fund research about the disease.”
The event, made possible by a core group of participants and volunteers, met and exceeded its $3,000 goal to raise funds for the Alzheimer’s Association research fund.
“I ultimately think that this type of event is successful when it brings a personal face to the disease,” said Andersen. “I don’t think people realize the pain and longevity of this disease until it hits their family. This is the kind of disease that can tear families apart.”
According to statistics provided by the Alzheimer’s Association 5.4 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease. One in eight older Americans has Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and the only cause of death among the top 10 in the United States that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed.
More than 15 million Americans provide unpaid care valued at $210 billion for persons with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Payments for care are estimated to be $200 billion in the United States in 2012.
The mission of the Alzheimer’s Association is to “eliminate” the disease and to “provide support to those afflicted” with the disease. To date, the organization boasts that it is the leading non-profit funder of Alzheimer’s research.
Andersen and her crew organized their first walk to raise funds for the organization 10 years ago and they have seen steady participation over those years.
“The fact is that this event is a labor of love for so many people here in Lovell,” said Andersen. “I think that what it comes down to is that we love the people in our community and that’s why we do this event. I think that shows through in the fact that there isn’t anybody here at the event who isn’t willing to do anything they can to make this a special event.
“After 10 years, the event has become almost like a reunion. You recognize when someone is here again, when someone is not and when someone new gets involved.”
By Patti Carpenter