Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Walk the Walk, Talk the Talk

Jessica Snell, Sedalia Walk to End Alzheimer’s co-chair, and I were at the radio station Tuesday morning to talk about the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. We were armed with the names of our sponsors and teams, goals, and statistics. It’s always a pleasure to be on the air with Doug, and even better to record the program for broadcast the next day. When you are on the air live, you just have to go with it, but when the program is recorded and your tongue gets tangled, you get “overs.” We all need overs from time to time.

I’ve been involved with the Walk since 1998 and during that time, I’ve seen a lot of changes. The first year, I raised $400 and Jim and I walked with a handful of people. For the next five years, I was the coordinator, or Walk chair, of our local Memory Walk. At that time, our logo was the word “Alzheimer’s” with the “H” being two people, leaning. The Alzheimer’s Association was well known as “Someone to lean on.” The Walk began to draw hundreds of walkers.

For the next five years, Shelley Spinner coordinated our Walk and I backed off the committee to make sure everyone saw her as the leader of the group. She did a great job of keeping the Walk exciting and fresh. I was able to concentrate on being captain of Jim’s Team. Following her, Lisa Hayworth led the Walk committee for two years. Lisa had no experience or help. At that time, my sister-in-law Ginger and I went back on the committee, and we’ve remained on it since then helping Sheila Ream.

Some things change and others remain the same. The Alzheimer’s Association changed the logo to the current one and “Memory Walk” to Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Some of the format has changed. The Promise ceremony has been added and it encompasses the different ways that Alzheimer’s affects us. Our local chapter has changed names from Mid-Missouri to Greater Missouri, merged with the Southwest Chapter, and became a national chapter. What does this all mean? We still have chapter offices where they were located previously and the Alzheimer’s Association still provides the personal service that helped me throughout the years when dementia ruled our lives.

Another change I’ve seen over the years is how people have become more knowledgeable about the disease. When I first approached area businesses in 1999 for corporate sponsorship, no one seemed to know much about Alzheimer’s. Now, everyone seems to know a few basics. A lot of credit goes to the Alzheimer’s Association for raising public awareness.

The Walk is about people. It is a time to show care and concern for those with the disease and their loved ones. It is a time when everyone puts aside their differences and embraces the opportunity to support their friends, neighbors, and relatives who are dealing with Alzheimer’s. We have teams with different names, but in essence, we are all one team. Competition is fierce, but friendly. I celebrate the teams that raise more than our team.

When I was coordinating the Sedalia Walk, I became friends with Ted Distler who coordinated the Jefferson City Walk. We “trash talked” each other all the time about which town was going to raise more money. In truth, it was all in competitive fun, and we supported each other at fundraisers. Ted would drive to Sedalia for our Dance to Remember, and I’d drive to Jefferson City for their Chicken Dinner. We had the same connection to the disease and the same passion for doing what we could to help other care partners and persons with dementia.

What people don’t understand is Walk to End Alzheimer’s is a fun event. Yes, it is sobering at times when you hear the stories of the participants, and the flower ceremony is touching, but knowing that you are doing your part is heart lifting. Smiles, laughter, and love are the order of the day. You don’t want to miss it or you’ll have to wait another year. From babies in strollers to seniors in wheelchairs, we lend support and lean on each other to end Alzheimer’s.

Copyright © August 2015 by L.S. Fisher

No comments: