By STEVEN NALLEY
East Mississippi Community College’s practical nursing students could not have picked a better day to plant the Alzheimer’s Association’s “Promise Flowers” — plastic pinwheels shaped like forget-me-nots of different colors — than Sunday.
Each color represented a different type of participant in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, and participants were encouraged to write the names of the patients they were walking for on the petals.
Orange flowers came from supporters of the walk’s cause; blue flowers came from those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s; yellow flowers came from people supporting or taking care of people with Alzheimer’s; and purple flowers came from those who had lost someone to the disease.
The sun was out, the winds were high and every “Promise Flower” was spinning, whatever its color.
For the first time, the EMCC Golden Triangle Campus hosted the Golden Triangle Walk to End Alzheimer’s Sunday afternoon, bringing 139 walkers from multiple cities.
Ian MacDonald, development director for the Mississippi chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, said he was grateful to all the participants, to EMCC for providing their facilities and to American Legion Troop 69 and the Imperial Palace Casino for their sponsorship. He said the 2010 walk only had about 14 teams, but this year, 21 teams signed up.
“We have more teams this year than we’ve ever had before,” MacDonald said. “This is an awesome sight. We’ve been in this area for three years now. Each year, the walk keeps on growing.”
Dawn Pounders, walk chairperson, said the previous two walks were held at Plantation Point in Columbus.
“To move it to EMCC Mayhew campus made it more centrally located for all of the Golden Triangle area,” Pounders said. “So it was easier to get Starkville people involved and West Point people involved.”
MacDonald said the arrangement was especially helpful for Starkville participants.
“The Alzheimer’s Association supports the various support groups in all of the surrounding counties,” MacDonald said. “We have a very strong support group in Starkville, so it’s just easier for all of our constituents to attend.”
Mary Margaret Roark, 2011 Miss Mississippi, welcomed participants to the walk. In her speech, she said it was inspiring to see the amount of participants who had come.
“We’re all here today to reclaim a future for millions of people,” Roark said. “In the United States, more than 5 million people are living with Alzheimer’s disease, and nearly 15 million individuals are providing them with unpaid care. As the cost of Alzheimer’s care continues to escalate into the hundreds of millions of dollars and as the prevalence of the disease continues to grow, each one of you in this room plays a pivotal role in the fight against Alzheimer’s just by being here today.”
Roark said each contestant in the Miss America pageant is called on to select a platform, an issue close to her heart. She said she chose Alzheimer’s disease because her own grandmother was diagnosed with it a few years ago.
“I’m not actually sure when her diagnosis took place,” Roark said. “My family tried to hide it from me for a while, but as you know, you can’t keep it secret for long.”
“We no longer have to hide it,” Roark added. “Now we’ve moved on to the next phase, which is finding a cure and finding more effective treatments. I’m sure you all have very similar stories. We all have loved ones that have been touched by this disease.”