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Oliver: Walk to End Alzheimer’s is step in the right direction

Joan Oliver
Joan Oliver

On Sunday, more than 650 people are expected to take a walk for a cause near and dear to my heart.

The 2017 Walk to End Alzheimer’s – McHenry County will start at 10 a.m. Sunday at Lippold Park, 851 Route 176, Crystal Lake. Registration for the 5K walk begins at 8 a.m., and a ceremony is planned at 9:30 a.m.

McHenry County’s walk is one of 27 walks taking place across the state, said Melyssa Johnson, manager of special events for the Illinois chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. More than 600 walks will raise funds across the nation to combat the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S.

“As we attract more of the community, we also encourage all of our participants to fundraise, which allows us to raise more and more every year,” Johnson said of the local walk’s $115,000 goal and growing number of participants.

The money goes toward the Alzheimer’s Association’s care, support and research initiatives.

On a national level, that means finding ways to treat, prevent, slow and ultimately cure Alzheimer’s disease, which currently affects 220,000 people in Illinois, Johnson said.

“While the funds raised benefit research on a national level, the funds also allow us to provide local programming, such as our free 24/7 Helpline, local in-person support groups, webinars, local programs given by trained professionals and local Care Navigation managers who can meet with families or individuals who are searching for support and resources,” she said.

I don’t know what my family would do without a number of those programs. When my husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, a care navigator met with us to answer our questions.

My husband attends a monthly support group by phone for those with early onset Alzheimer’s.

I’ve taken phone seminars and webinars that have helped immensely in dealing with not only Tony’s condition, but also with my mother, who deals with vascular dementia.

Sadly, statistics show that my family isn’t unique when it comes to dealing with the challenges of Alzheimer’s and related dementias.

“Right now, Alzheimer’s is the No. 6 cause of death, and the only one in the top 10 without a treatment, prevention or cure,” Johnson said. “One in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia, and with our population living longer, and no cure yet, these numbers are just increasing.”

Those who would like to participate in the walk can register at alz.org/Illinois or just show up on the day of the walk and register at Lippold Park.

Walkers who reach the fundraising minimum of $100 will receive a T-shirt.

Each registered walker with a wristband will receive a Promise Garden flower. The flower’s color corresponds to the walker’s connection with Alzheimer’s: blue represents someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia; purple is for those who have lost a loved one; yellow is for someone currently supporting or caring for someone with Alzheimer’s; and orange is for supporters of the cause.

Those who cannot make it to the walk on Sunday can make a donation on the local walk page and can donate to an individual, a team or even just the walk as a whole.

More information can be found at the walk’s webpage, http://act.alz.org/site/TR/Walk2017/IL-Illinois?fr_id=10366&pg=entry.

Those who would like to volunteer at the McHenry County walk can email Louie Iovane at liovane@alz.org or click the “Volunteer” link on the local walk’s website.

I am grateful for the work that the Alzheimer’s Association does to support families like mine.

That also means I’m grateful to all those who will take part in the walk on Sunday.
Your support really makes a difference. It certainly has for us.

• Joan Oliver is a former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at jolivercolumn@gmail.com.

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