Over the weekend nearly 300 people flocked to Dixie High School to participate in the annual “Walk to End Alzheimer’s.”
I’d been to one of these walks before, yet I was still surprised at the overwhelming emotion emanating from Saturday’s crowd. They were so happy, I thought when I first arrived. So hopeful, so excited, and so optimistic about a disease that is currently the nation’s sixth-leading cause of death.
You wouldn’t know they know about that statistic, though, from a look at their faces. The crowd cheered with excitement and clapped for the cause. Many came with support of family and friends, all with matching t-shirts, and most with names of personal inspiration pinned to the back.
Community outreach coordinator Jessica Merrill described the event as a symbolic walk for someone you love, someone who has passed away, or if you’re simply passionate about the cause.
Merrill said the walk is the biggest event of the year as far as funds for the Alzheimer’s Association.
The committee works with assisted living and nursing homes, and then they invite the community to bring booths, showcase their business, and offer support. Mayor Dan McArthur and even Sione and Filipe Fa from NBC’s “Biggest Loser” came out to help the cause.
“Every year it grows and grows,” Merrill said. “We started with a small crowd of 50 or so, and now we’ve got almost 300 participating. Now it feels like we’re reaching people in the community as well as those personally affected by Alzheimer’s or in nursing homes.”
J.J. from St. George was at the Walk for the third year in a row. His wife works at Cliff View Assisted Living where they have a secure wing for Alzheimer’s patients, so J.J. said it’s usually a big deal to them to attend the event.
“It’s important to promote awareness, especially since so many people get it,” J.J. said. “It’s a scary disease and since we’re a town of snowbirds awareness is critical.”
While there isn’t a cure to Alzheimer’s, there are ways to reduce the chances of getting it. Merrill said maintaining the brain, getting the right nutrition, even coffee can help.
“We want people to realize it’s not just a grandma and grandpa disease,” she said. “Everyone can get involved and we can create awareness early on to try to reduce our chances of getting it.”
The Walk to End Alzheimer’s is a year-long planning process, but the Alzheimer’s Association also offers a variety of free programs and services to the public year round. Among support groups and care consultations for those newly diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, caregivers can also receive help with respite programs multiple times a week.
Cliff View Chef Jessica Fox went to the event to walk for a Cliff View resident. She didn’t know about the Walk to End Alzheimer’s until she started working there, but she said she’ll definitely be back next year.
“They provide a lot of services, many of which help people to know that they aren’t alone and that there are people out there that know what they’re going through,” Fox said. “It also makes people more aware of the disease. You never realize how it affects people until it becomes personal, and it’s become personal for me because I’ve bonded with people at work who have it. It’s definitely hard, so it’s good to see help like this.”
The Alzheimer’s Association is always looking for new volunteers, and at the beginning of the year they’ll be on the lookout for new committee members. For more information, call Jessica Merrill at 435-862-2830.