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Spreading the word and finding support

The Western Tidewater Walk to End Alzheimer’s is scheduled for Oct. 2 at YMCA Camp Arrowhead, 275 Kenyon Road.

Registration starts at 8:30 a.m., with the opening ceremony at 9:40 a.m. before the two-mile walk beginning at 10 a.m.

The walk is an annual fundraiser to find a cure for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. The day also serves as an outlet to bring awareness to the disease while supporting those impacted. The goal for this year’s event is to raise $72,000.

“It’s so important to push and promote so heavily,” said Karla Kelly. “Everyone is or will be affected one way or another whether it be friends, family or themselves. That’s why we need to find a cure soon.”

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are more than 160,000 people living with the disease and 349,000 caregivers in Virginia alone. This walk is a way for the community and those affected to raise money for a cure while creating camaraderie.

Part of the walk is the flowers walkers carry before placing them in the promise garden. Each color represents the different ways people are affected by Alzheimer’s. Blue is for those living with Alzheimer’s or dementia, purple is for those who have lost a loved one to the disease, yellow is for those caring for someone with the disease, and orange is for someone supporting the vision of a world without the disease. Each year the ceremony brings out one white flower at the end to symbolize the first survivor of Alzheimer’s. The hope is that one day many white flowers will be present to symbolize many cured, but until the walkers march on until that is a reality.

“We will find a cure one day,” said Kelly. “Soon, in the promise garden, we will replace a purple flower with a white flower for the first cure.”

Kelly is the team lead for the Suffolk Business Women for the walk and has supported the cause for the past four years. She was drawn to the cause since she lost her mother three years ago to Alzheimer’s and, for the past 10 years, has watched her mother-in-law slowly deteriorate due to the disease.

According to Kelly, her favorite part of the walk is the camaraderie and support it gives to those giving care to someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Some talk and swap tips on how to better care for their loved ones.

“The first time I went to a walk was in Newport News, and I was enthralled with the group there,” said Kelly. “It was people with shared experience swapping stories and sharing tips. It’s the same case and the same loss and the same common goal to help the families.”

In light of COVID-19 as rising concerns for the Delta variant, the safety of the walkers still remains the top priority. Local guidelines will be followed as well as contactless registration, sanitizing stations and more.

To register and receive the latest updates on this year’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s, visit alz.org/walk.