Alzheimer’s Association walk on Sept. 20 raises awareness, funds

Alzheimer’s Association walk on Sept. 20 raises awareness, funds

The Alzheimer’s Association is inviting Southeast Texas residents to unite in a movement to reclaim the future for millions by participating in the Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s at West Brook High School on Saturday, Sept. 20.

Registration begins at 7:30 a.m., with a ceremony including special tributes to those who have experienced or are experiencing Alzheimer’s at 8:30 a.m., and the walk begins at 9 a.m.

This year’s walk will not only include education about the disease, but will also feature a photo station providing more opportunities to take team pictures and group shots before the walk. There will be a second photo station on the walk route.

“There’s going to be more entertainment on the walk route,” said Clarissa Urban, regional outreach coordinator at Alzheimer’s Association, Houston and Southeast Texas Chapter. “There will be music and cheerleaders to motivate people to continue walking.”

There is no registration fee to walk. However, The Alzheimer’s Association asks every walker to make a personal donation and commit to raising funds in the fight against Alzheimer’s.

Parents can register children online or complete an offline registration form and sign the waiver on behalf of the child.

The Walk to End Alzheimer’s is more than just a walk. It is an experience for thousands of participants who will learn about Alzheimer’s disease and how to get involved with this critical cause, from advocacy opportunities, the latest in Alzheimer’s research and clinical trial enrollment to support programs and services. Each walker will also join in a meaningful ceremony to honor those affected by Alzheimer’s disease.

“A lot of people hold up the purple flowers during our ceremony. That represents that they lost someone. It’s very sad, but it’s so impactful that they are still trying to do something,” Urban said. “Whether you’ve actually been a caregiver for someone or not, your friend, your neighbor, your co-worker has been affected in some way or another.”

Alzheimer’s disease is a growing epidemic and is now the nation’s sixth-leading cause of death. As baby boomers age, the number of individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease will rapidly escalate, increasing well beyond today’s more than 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s.

“This disease is taking away from the population of the United States,” said Port Arthur resident Sharon DeJohn, 55, who lost her parents to Alzheimer’s. Sharon’s mother, Nancy Jones died from the disease in 2014 at the age of 84. Her father, who had Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s, died in 2013 at the age of 87.

DeJohn who was a caregiver to both of her parents before they died, said even though they are gone, she will continue to walk to raise Alzheimer’s awareness.

“Someone needs to find a cure,” she said. “We are trying to find cures for everything else, but there doesn’t seem to be that much attention on this disease. I think everyone has the perception that it is for the elderly, but they also have the early-stage Alzheimer’s. This disease is wiping out a lot of people in the U.S.”

DeJohn said the disease not only takes a toll on the person who has it, but also on the caregiver.

“You don’t get that much rest,” she said. “You are on call all the time. You might get a call at one o’clock or two o’clock in the morning. You are constantly going back and forth to hospitals. You have to make sure they are getting cleaned up and fed right.”

DeJohn is right in that Alzheimer’s is not just a disease of old age. Younger-onset (also known as early-onset) Alzheimer’s affects people younger than age 65. Up to 5 percent of the more than 5 million Americans with Alzheimer’s have younger-onset.

Doctors do not understand why most cases of early onset Alzheimer’s appear at such a young age, the Alzheimer’s Association website states. But in a few hundred families worldwide, scientists have pinpointed several rare genes that directly cause Alzheimer’s. People who inherit these rare genes tend to develop symptoms in their 30s, 40s and 50s. When deterministic genes cause Alzheimer’s disease, it is called “familial Alzheimer’s disease,” and many family members in multiple generations are affected.

Funds raised from the walk go toward much-needed research to find a cure for the disease and don’t get sent to far off research labs that don’t have any bearing on Southeast Texas.

“We fund researches close to home, which is Houston,” Urban said.

The Alzheimer’s Association is the largest private, nonprofit funder of Alzheimer research, literature by the organization states, awarding more than $292 million to an excess of 2,000 projects.

Last year, the Walk to End Alzheimer’s raised more than $57 million for care and research, with the Houston and Southeast Texas Chapter raising $1.2 million.

DeJohn has already started her team, with a goal of raising $5,000, in memory of her parents. She named the team the “Jones Family,” but said you don’t need to literally be a member of her family to join her team. All you have to possess is a passion for ending a disease that affects millions of Americans each year.

Start or join a team today at alz.org/walk. Sponsors and volunteers are needed as well, Urban said. If you are interested call (409) 833-1613.

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