Walk to End Alzheimer’s brings hope for a first survivor

Event participants honor people affected by the disease by carrying flowers to represent why they walk: a purple flower means you’ve lost a loved one.

The Alzheimer’s Association Washington State Chapter is hosting the Pierce County Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Tacoma on Sunday, Sept. 15. The event will be held at the University of Puget Sound with registration beginning at 11 a.m. The opening ceremony starts at 12 p.m. and the two-mile walk begins at 12:30 p.m.

The inspiring event calls on participants of all ages and abilities to join the fight against Alzheimer’s. Event participants honor people affected by the disease, carrying flowers to represent why they walk: a purple flower means you’ve lost a loved one, the yellow flower is for caregivers and the blue flower is carried by individuals living with Alzheimer’s and dementia. The white flower, a symbol for Alzheimer’s first survivor, is part of the opening Promise Garden Ceremony, an inspiring display of hope that kicks off the walk.

Last year, the Pierce County Walk to End Alzheimer’s attracted more than 1,000 participants and raised more than $225,000. The event is one of 600 walks held annually in communities nationwide, raising awareness about Alzheimer’s disease and nearly $97 million for Alzheimer’s care, support and research programs.

The Washington State Chapter, which serves Washington State and Northern Idaho, will host 16 Walk to End Alzheimer’s events across the region this fall. Funding from the walks are crucial to supporting local community programs for people facing Alzheimer’s or dementia – as well as critical research being done nationally and internationally to find an effective means of prevention, treatment and a cure.

Roxzan Sukola, a top fundraiser for the event, first got involved after her husband Dave was diagnosed with younger-onset Alzheimer’s. “We see the effects of the disease every day and this was a way for our family to rally around Dave,” says Roxzan. “It’s brought our family so much closer together.” Her family’s team, Dave’s Divas, has now participated in more than 25 walks across the region and raised more than $10,000.

During the event, participants also have the opportunity to learn more about Alzheimer’s and dementia, advocacy and public policy, clinical studies enrollment and local support programs. There are more than a dozen support groups offered in Pierce County, including several especially for family caregivers, people living in the early stages of the disease, and those with younger-onset dementia. The Washington State Chapter also offers a free weekly walking program in Tacoma for people living in the early stages of the disease and their care partners.

“For us, the Walk isn’t just about the money we’re raising, it’s about connecting with people and spreading the word about Alzheimer’s.” says Sukola. “When we’re out fundraising, people ask us who they should talk to or what they should do. We’ll have brochures there and we tell them about the resources that are available. If we’re able to help just one person, we know we’re making a difference.”

In addition to local services, people can also reach out to the Alzheimer’s Association through a 24/7 helpline (1-800-272-3900) for information, support, care consultation or resources. Their website alz.org is also a wonderful resource and is often a person’s first stop when looking for Alzheimer’s and dementia information, education and support resources.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, a term for memory loss and cognitive changes severe enough to interfere with daily living. It is a progressive and fatal brain disorder and the only leading cause of death in the nation that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed.

According to the 2019 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report, there are 5.8 million Americans currently living with the disease and that number is expected to increase to 14 million by 2050. In Washington State alone, there are 110,000 people age 65+ living with the disease and another 348,000 unpaid caregivers providing support to their loved ones with dementia. The duration of the disease and severity of the symptoms make Alzheimer’s the most expensive disease in America. Last year, the cost of caring for people with Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia surpassed a quarter of a trillion dollars ($290 billion).

The emotional and financial toll of the disease is devastating our families and our communities. That’s why the Walk to End Alzheimer’s is so important. If you would like to participate or make a donation, please visit alz.org/walk or call 1 (800) 272-3900.

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