By MATT CRANE
Community members will have the chance to raise funds and awareness for Alzheimer’s disease as the Alzheimer’s Association hosts the third annual Golden Triangle Walk to End Alzheimer’s at 2:30 p.m. Sunday on the East Mississippi Community College Mayhew campus.
Organizer Cindy Walker said registration for the event begins at 1:30 p.m. and will feature a variety of activities and educational opportunities.
“We’ll have vendors set up inside the building that will be giving information and offering resources that support Alzheimer’s patients and caregivers,” she said. “The Eat With Us group will be providing cookies and water for the event.”
Walker said a local band will provide live entertainment as well as special guests throughout the event.
“Coach Jim Thompkins will lead a warm up before the walk begins,” she said. “We’ll also have someone there as a spokesperson from the caregiver’s perspective telling their story.”
Mississippi Alzheimer’s Association Executive Director Patty Dunn said the annual walks are the largest national events that help raise money and awareness for the association and the disease.
“It’s an opportunity for people who have been affected by Alzheimer’s to come together as a community and share their stories and show support for one another,” she said. “The walk lets people learn more about the association and the disease which gives us the opportunity to talk about our advocacy and the services we have to offer.”
Dunn said the event will begin with an opening promise garden ceremony and conclude with team-fundraising recognition.
“Participants will have the chance to walk and plant one of four flowers in our memory garden — one color for someone suffering from the disease, one for the caregivers, one for those who have had a friend or family member pass away and one for advocates not directly affected by the disease,” she said. “We’ll gather at the end and give awards for teams that were successful in their fundraising endeavors and recognize the appreciation for our sponsors.”
Dunn said the number of participants has grown over the years, and said she is excited that awareness continues to grow.
“We share resources on the day of the event and people will have the opportunity to meet friends and families and learn about support groups,” she said. “It’s all about letting people know that the association is here to help and that they have somewhere to turn to.”
Dunn said Alzheimer’s, the sixth-leading cause of death and one among the top 10 in America without a way to prevent, cure or even slow its progression, is a unique disease of which the public should be informed.
“It’s a disease unlike any other because the person who has the disease is just that — a person — and they are slowly being taken away from you,” she said. “There is still such a stigma about Alzheimer’s and the awareness from these walks helps us to eliminate some of those stigmas.”
Dunn said her initial, and continued, advocacy for patients and caregivers dealing with Alzheimer’s stems from her desire to make a positive change in an individual’s life.
“You hear about the struggles they are going through and we want to show how the association has been able to grow and provide better support mechanisms and education to get through these difficult times,” she said. “You need people to lean on as early in the process as possible, and, though it might sound cliche, I get to go home and know that I’ve done something good for someone’s life and that makes it all worth it.”
Dunn said the association currently has 27 fundraising teams signed up for Sunday’s event with more teams likely to sign up on the day of the walk.
“We have an online fundraising system that people seem to really like using, so you can sign up online and learn a lot of information,” she said. “You begin to see the same families year after year, and they become a part of your own family. It’s a very strong bond that this community shares.”
The Golden Triangle Walk to End Alzheimer’s begins at 2:30 p.m. with registration at 1:30 p.m. on the EMCC Mayhew campus.
For more information, call 601-987-0020 or visit http://www.alz.org./ms .