Nearly everyone has been touched by Alzheimer’s Disease, whether they’ve received the diagnosis themselves, or a friend or family member has been afflicted.
Sept. 16 is a chance for people in the South Sound to show their support, during the annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s at the University of Puget Sound (1500 N. Warner St. in Tacoma). Registration starts at 11 a.m., with the opening ceremony at noon, and the two-mile walk itself beginning at 12:30 p.m.
More than a dozen walks are held in the state of Washington and two more in Idaho — supported by the Washington State chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association — with the South Sound covering south King County, Tacoma, Olympia, and Gig Harbor.
Those interested in participating can register in advance online (link at the end of this article), and while it’s free to take part, donations and fundraising are strongly encouraged. Those that raise at least $100 receive a T-Shirt, $500 a spot in the Champion Club, and $1,000 a place in the Grand Champion Club. Those in either club receive water bottles, sunglasses, and other fundraising incentives.
“A lot of people want the shirt,” said Carrie McBride, director of Marketing and Communications for the state chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.
Of note is the promise garden ceremony, where those on hand are given flowers, the color of which represents their connection to the disease. Blue flowers are for those living with Alzheimer’s, purple for those who have lost someone to the disease, and yellow represents caregivers and general supporters of the mission. White flowers are meant to signify the first survivor, with the hope that someday they will be the prominent color.
“When you see someone on stage holding a flower, it makes you feel less alone,” she said.
For McBride, the effort to end Alzheimer’s hits close to home.
“As someone who has personally experienced Alzheimer’s and dementia in my family, I find that the community gathers together for this event to be very moving,” McBride said. “Dementia can be a really isolating disease, when suddenly you’re surrounded with people going through what you have. [There’s] camaraderie, and it’s really inspiring.”
The walk supports research and local support programs, including those for caregivers. Edward Jones is the national presenting sponsor of the event, while local backers include Tacoma Subaru.
McBride said the event is also a great opportunity for team building, whether it be for corporations, or various local organizations.
“It’s really an important cause, and it can show your support for living with this disease,” she said.
McBride said the disease is rarely talked about as a leading cause of death, but it’s sixth in the U.S., third in the state, and one of the top-10 diseases that cannot be prevented, cured, or treated.
Organizers are expecting close to 1,000 participants, with a fundraising goal of $185,000.
“Everyone should be involved,” McBride said.
But, the event does pack special meaning for those closest to the disease.
“The people who will take away the most from this event are those who have someone in their lives who have been or currently are affected by Alzheimer’s,” she said. “They’re the ones who gain the most from this experience because they become part of the ceremony with the flowers, and get access to resources and the exhibitors they make connections with, and people they haven’t met, with similar situations. People who are impacted with the disease are encouraged to come join us.”
For more information, visit alz.org/walk.