Memory Walk raises Alzheimer’s awareness



By Missy Smith

Every 71 seconds someone in America is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and currently, 5.2 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s, according to the Alzheimer Association Web site.

Megan McKenna, sophomore in AHS, is one of millions of Americans who have been indirectly affected by the disease. McKenna’s grandfather died of the disease when she was just 13 years old. For this reason, McKenna will participate in the Memory Walk on Saturday morning at Meadowbrook Park in Urbana to honor his memory.

“There are so many terrible parts about Alzheimer’s as a disease, yet one of the worst parts is that as the victim begins to forget his or her past, so does the family,” McKenna said. “The image of a sick and confused individual is what replaces the many other memories of that victim being a happy, healthy person.”

This is the first year McKenna will participate in the Memory Walk, though the event is not new to the community.

For more than 15 years, the Champaign-Urbana community has rallied together to raise money for the fight against Alzheimer’s disease, which is the sixth leading cause of death in America, according to the Alzheimer Association Web site.

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Stephanie Doolin, director of Alzheimer programming at Carle Arbors, said the Memory Walk has been raising money on a national level for Alzheimer’s research since 1993.

“The Memory Walk is put on by the Alzheimer Association, and across the nation, it is the target event that raises money for Alzheimer care and support,” Doolin said.

Melissa Chrisman, special events manager for the Alzheimer Association, said the Memory Walk in the Champaign-Urbana community gets bigger and better every year, and they hope to surpass their previous fundraising goal.

“In both 2006 and 2007, we raised about $38,000 for the cause,” Chrisman said. “This year, the way things are tracking right now, we hope to raise about $40,000.”

The registration fee per person is $100, which will earn the participant an official T-shirt, with the walk’s slogan on it.

Chrisman said people were pleased with this year’s T-shirt design.

“They are really cool – they are bright purple and across the front they say ‘move’ because we are on the move to end Alzheimer’s,” Chrisman said.

The walk at Meadowbrook Park will begin at 9 a.m., but registration begins at 8:30 a.m. It will take walkers about two hours to traverse the 2.5 mile trail and will conclude with a short reception. Along the walk, there will be food and refreshments for the participants.

Both Doolin and Chrisman stress that it is not too late to get involved in this year’s Memory Walk.

“There is no minimum donation,” Doolin said. “Any little bit adds up, and we are grateful for everything we get.”

Chrisman said this event is an easy way for students to get involved in a good cause, one that will not monopolize too much of their time.

“It is a good way to make a difference,” Chrisman said. “This is a pretty easy thing, and most people are done by 11 a.m. We really just want people to come out and have a good time.”

Jennifer Flesher, junior in ACES, has organized a team of about 13 students to participate in this year’s walk. By Sept. 5, she said she reached her goal of raising $1,000 for Alzheimer’s research.

Flesher, who works with Alzheimer’s patients at Carle Arbors, felt compelled to participate because she experiences the effects of the disease every day.

Flesher said working with the disease has changed her outlook on life.

“It definitely puts things into perspective, like my interactions with my own grandparents,” Flesher said. “They are getting older, and if they start to show signs, they might not have a ton of time left. I make sure the time I spend with them is more meaningful.”

Although this is Flesher’s first year participating in the Memory Walk, she plans to continue to do so in the future.

“It’s definitely changing my perspective on life,” she said.