This year’s Memory Walk, for which I was honorary chair, attracted nearly 1,000 people to Long Branch Park in Liverpool and raised a record-breaking $123,300. Presented by Loretto, the walk raises money to pay for Alzheimer’s care, support and research.
I appreciate all of the donations my DementiAwareness team collected–$1,025 as of the day of the event. You can continue to make donations through Nov. 1.
We had a crisp, bright fall morning for the walk. And Central New York’s best donuts, supplied by Tim Horton’s. What could have been better?
Well, of course, if there were no need for a Memory Walk to begin with, that would be great. But that’s not the case. Those of us whose lives have been touched (slammed?) by Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia have heard the grim statistics: 5.3 million Americans have Alzheimer’s, and that number will grow considerably as the Baby Boomers start turning 65 next year. (That number does not include other dementias, such as frontotemporal lobe dementia, which has my father in its grip.) Also, that there are no effective treatments or preventive therapies.
The Memory Walk was not a time to dwell on the negatives, though. It was a time for us to come together, gather support, realize we are not alone.
My friend who lost her mother to Alzheimer’s earlier this year was there walking, wearing her mother’s purple fleece jacket. And I saw Tiffany Riihinen and her mother, P.J. Kimmerly, who has the disease; they allowed me to share their story in The Post-Standard a few weeks ago. And as we passed each other on the walk, a man I had not met reached for me, and we hugged. “I’m walking in honor of your dad and my mom,” he said, hurrying off in one direction as I headed in the other. The encounter caught me off guard. For several seconds, I walked in a haze, savoring that fleeting but solid connection with an otherwise stranger, and thinking about my Dad.
He is like so many others’ loved ones, so hobbled by dementia that walking has been replaced with shuffling, and wandering. My Dad’s heart remains strong as his mind fails. He no longer knows me, or his grandkids, or his wife sometimes. We don’t know what memories he has, and we’ve learned we cannot influence that. He has bad days, and days that aren’t so bad, and we’ve learned we cannot influence that much, either. But we can still honor him–and that’s what we did today.
Read what I said before the walk.