Walk for parents and the next generation

Published 10:48 pm Friday, August 23, 2019

This September, Jordie DiFernando will join hundreds of others at the 2019 Western Tidewater Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Suffolk.

DiFernando, 26, will be walking for her father Joe DiFernando, 58, who was diagnosed with vascular dementia in 2016. Further testing revealed an “atypical” cluster of different dementia conditions, including semantic dementia and early onset dementia because of his age, according to Jordie.

“He’s affected a lot in his ability to speak clearly and in a lot of day-to-day activities,” she said.


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As a civilian, her father had a specialized career in the military. He inspected and certified aircraft carriers in a position of high esteem and traveled all over the world, she said.

“He was a super geek about the internet age and all of those things. But those were the first faculties that left him. The things that filled him with excitement and passion,” she said.

She spends most of her free time helping her mother, Carol DiFernando, take care of her father. Some days he understands his limitations; other days, he doesn’t. Things he was able to do effortlessly before — like repairing household appliances, some of which he’s kept operational since the 1980s — are now struggles.

“He’s always been an incredibly compassionate person, but now in an everyday capacity, those things are fading,” Jordie said.

She signed up and raised money for last year’s Suffolk Walk, but since last year’s Walk was canceled due to Hurricane Florence, this year will be her first time walking for her father — as well as for future generations that face the perils of Alzheimer’s.

“It represents maybe not what could be changed for my dad in his lifetime, but for my kids and generations of future kids,” she said.

The Walk to End Alzheimer’s is the world’s largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research, according to act.alz.org.

The 2019 Western Tidewater Walk to End Alzheimer’s will take place on Sept. 14 at YMCA Camp Arrowhead, 275 Kenyon Road. Check-in will begin at 8:30 a.m., followed by the opening ceremony at 9:40 a.m.

The walk will begin at 10 a.m. This walk will include a three-mile route, and there will be a one-mile option as well.

There is no registration fee for the walk, although every walker is encouraged to make a personal donation and commit to raising funds in the fight against Alzheimer’s. Additionally, every registered participant will receive a T-shirt after achieving the fundraising minimum of $100.

As of Friday afternoon, $39,542 has been raised towards the Suffolk Walk’s $88,000 fundraising goal this year, and 190 participants have registered for the Suffolk Walk.

Contact Barbara Monteith at 793-5077 or bgmonteith@alz.org for more information, or visit alz.org/walk.