Walking to end Alzheimer’s
Last year the relatively small community of Lake Junaluska and surrounding counties raised more than $43,000 to help end Alzheimer’s disease.
Participates hope to beat that record this year, but they need everyone’s help. So far, the 21 teams made up of 86 walkers have collected more than $10,000 from the communities.
The Haywood Walk to End Alzheimer’s will be held earlier this year, Saturday, Sept. 14, in the hopes of better weather than the past few years when it was held in October. Check in will be at 9 a.m. and the walk will begin at 10 a.m. at the Lake Junaluska welcome center.
The route around the lake is just less than 2.5 miles. Participants are free to turn around at any point, as it is not necessary to complete the entire route. The purpose of the walk is awareness and fundraising rather than a race that must be completed in a certain amount of time.
Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in America, and the only one in the top 10 that cannot be cured, prevented or even slowed. More than five million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s. In North Carolina, more than 170,000 are affected by the disease and more than 431,000 family and friends provide care.
Donna Shope Fowler lives in Haywood County but has participated in the walk in Asheville for eight years because that’s where her father Calvin Shope lived. Her late father, who worked at Champion International, suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.
“We started walking in the walk the year he was diagnosed,” she said. “It was sad watching Dad deteriorate from this horrible disease. He was always on top of things and then he rapidly declined.”
Fowler and her sister, Sheila King, do the walk to help raise funds for research, awareness and treatment hoping it will help with the many families that are affected by it.
“He was a real sweetheart of a Dad and a good husband to our Mom, and a wonderful grandfather so we walk in memory of him,” Fowler said. “We walk to share in the hope with the other walkers that more research, treatment and help will increase each year.”
The walk is now an annual event with more than 600 communities participating worldwide. Jennie Pressley, walk coordinator in Haywood, said Dr. R. Wright Spears, former president of Columbia College, started the walk locally about 20 years ago.
Spears, almost 101 years old, has lived at Lake Junaluska since the 1970s. He started the walk in honor of his wife Mary Blue Smith who suffered from Alzheimer’s.
Marian Badgley, of Jonathan Creek, said Spears was a great help with the walk as well as the support group she facilitates. She got involved in the walk 14 years ago because her late husband was a victim of Alzheimer’s. She was his primary caregiver from 2002 until his death in 2006.
“Being a member of the support groups meant everything to me — you begin to be able to handle the situation,” she said.
Badgley still facilitates the support group that meets at 5:30 p.m. every fourth Tuesday at Waynesville First United Methodist Church.
“I felt like I needed to give back all they had given me,” she said. “Respite care is available and you’re able to talk to other people and share what they’re going through.”
Badgley said it was helpful to have a support system when you are a caregiver to someone with Alzheimer’s disease because everyone’s experience is different.
“Everyone goes through it differently, but if you know you have someone on your side — it really helps," she said. “It’s a long hard fight to get through it with your loved ones.”
The Alzheimer’s Association, Western Carolina Chapter raises funds and awareness to fight this devastating disease through the annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s. For more information, contact Pressley at 254-7363 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
You may also register on-line at http://act.alz.org/haywood. For more information and support, contact the 24-Hour Helpline at 1-800-272-3900 or visit www.alz.org/northcarolina.