FREDERICK, Md. (WDVM) — The annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s kicked off at Nymeo Field at Harry Grove Stadium, giving community members a chance to not only fundraise for the Alzheimer’s Association but to gather together again after the walk was held virtually last year.
Walkers took to the streets of Frederick donning flower pinwheels of various colors to signify different roles. A yellow flower signifies someone who is supporting or caring for a person with Alzheimer’s or dementia, a purple flower represents a person who lost a loved one to the disease and a blue flower represents a person currently living with the disease. Walkers who might not have a direct connection to someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia but still support the cause were given an orange flower.
Julie Peatt Cassaday, the Constituent Events Manager of the Western Maryland Division under the Greater Maryland Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, explains that the walk allows people to connect through a shared experience or loss at the walk. She says the community based around the walk supports and uplifts each other and after losing her mother to Alzheimer’s, she is glad to be a part of that community.
“It brings people together because a lot of times these families who are dealing with Alzheimer’s or other dementias, feel very isolated and alone,” Peatt Cassaday explained. “But by coming to an event like this what happens is, and I’m getting chills, they connect with other families going through the same thing and suddenly you realize you’re not alone.”
Jean McNiff is one of many at the walk who has lost a loved one to Alzheimer’s or dementia. Her mother passed away from Alzheimer’s almost 10 years ago and Jean uses the walk as a way of remembering and honoring her mother. She has attended Alzheimer’s walks in the past and was joined by her son, Dylan. She was excited by the turnout of this year’s walk as she remembers when the event was only attended by a handful of people. This year’s walk had 725 registered participants and 122 teams.
“It’s very important for the country, not only for my mom, of course, to remember her, but support for grandchildren and others,” McNiff said.
Fran Wenner was diagnosed with dementia almost 8 years ago and walked the full 3-mile route alongside her family and friends, lovingly named the “Fran Club.” Her husband and caregiver, Fred, was right by her side the entire time.
“We’ve been doing this for a few years, and, and each year, it gets more hectic because of the contacts with family and friends,” Fred explained. “But they’re the best time of each year for Fran because she reads all the notes on the donations and she knows that everyone who responds, is going to help to find a cure to Alzheimer’s.”
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 6 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s. Furthermore, Alzheimer’s and dementia deaths have increased by 16% during the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information and resources about Alzheimer’s and dementia, please visit the Alzheimer’s Association website.