Everybody knows somebody – a mother, grandfather, friend, neighbor, cousin, or colleague – who has been impacted by Alzheimer’s disease. Right now, there are 95,000 people here in South Carolina afflicted with Alzheimer’s, and 199,000 unpaid family and friends provide care for them, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Across the country, the numbers are staggering: 6 million people have the disease, while 19 million care for them. That’s 25 million reasons the Walk to End Alzheimer’s is so important.
It’s a lofty goal to end Alzheimer’s, but everyone can help. The 2021 Walk is scheduled for Oct. 30 at The Promenade in Bluffton. The goal is to raise funds to advance critical research, provide support and advocacy for families, and to ultimately find a cure.
Amanda Philips is the chairperson of this year’s local walk. This will be her ninth walk, and she participates to honor her father. “Dad was diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s the year that both of my parents retired,” she said. “He worked hard and suddenly he couldn’t enjoy his retirement – socializing and traveling – and my mother went from teaching straight to caregiving.”
Seeing one parent taking care of the other was difficult to see, Philips said. But, “Instead of getting upset and depressed, I wanted to do something proactive in care and cure. I walked with Dad in the Alzheimer’s Walk in Aiken three years ago, and two days later he passed. He was 73.”
Shakenia Robinson, a dementia specialist in the memory care unit at Benton House assisted living residence, serves on the organizing committee for the Walk. She is passionate about raising money to find a cure, not just because of her work, but because of her grandmother.
“She was my second mom and a caregiver who propped up our whole family,” Robinson said. “She was a great woman who helped raise me, my siblings, and my cousins. This disease destroys families. It’s the longest goodbye.”
This will be Robinson’s fifth year as team captain for the Benton House team, and her fundraising efforts even include the residents in the care facility. She organizes a Rock-A-Thon with a DJ, music, and hula hoop contests. Another effort includes decorated rocking chairs, in which residents’ friends and families are encouraged to make fundraising pledges for every minute spent in the rocking chairs.
Last year Suzanne Clark responded to a local article about the walk and organized the Rose Hill Warriors. Now she’s a returning walker and so far, she is the top single fundraiser for the walk. “Most people know someone with Alzheimer’s, and I had a friend who died from complications from Alzheimer’s,” Clark said. “I think a cure is a long way off, but caregivers need help. Money needs to be raised to help them and those who are afflicted.”
As the top fundraiser, Clark challenges one and all to knock her out of first place. “I encourage everyone to join a team or make a donation to the Alzheimer’s Association online,” she said.
Working in senior care for 20 years, Kathy Crist has participated in 20 South Carolina Walks to End Alzheimer’s. The reason she participates, however, is because her husband’s father, grandmother and aunt all had Alzheimer’s disease. “My husband is very supportive of my involvement,” she said. “He is a manly man who doesn’t express his worry externally, but internally there’s got to be some fear.”
Danielle Jeffcoat, a financial advisor with Edward Jones, formed her team, SlowCountry Sliders, in 2017 after Edward Jones became a national sponsor for the Alzheimer’s Association in 2016. “Edward Jones supplied a lot of information about how Alzheimer’s affects our clients and the families we work with,” Jeffcoat said. “They estimate that 300,000 of our clients have Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, and have committed $25 million to this cause. So, as a company we have a passion to join the fight.”
Crist said the fundraising goal for the Bluffton walk this year is $87,000. To date they have achieved 45% of that goal, with a long way to go. They hope to recruit 75 teams and 400 walkers.
The Walk will be held rain or shine, but, depending on Covid conditions, the location could be changed from the Promenade in Bluffton to remote walking for individual teams – in neighborhoods, on the beach, or in a park. Registrants will be notified of any changes due to Covid and the Alzheimer’s Association will be responsible for making this decision.
Whether someone close to you has Alzheimer’s, or it’s a friend’s family member, there are plenty of reasons to help. Register for the local walk – or make a donation – at act.alz.org.
Edwina Hoyle is a freelance writer in Bluffton.