Friday night’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s at Mill Creek Park saw 195 participants and 29 teams register to take part in the fund raising event. The result: $90,641.31 of the Statesboro Alzheimer’s group’s goal of $110,000 they hope to raise by Dec. 15 has been raised.
Jake Hallman addressed the group with the startling statistic that five million people are living with Alzheimer’s in the United States and 15 million people serve as unpaid caregivers.
Jennifer Nunn, chairman of the 2017 Walk to End Alzheimer’s, told the crowd that her life had been affected by Alzheimer’s, and she dreams of a cure for the disease in her lifetime.
“I truly believe we have hope in ending this disease.”
Participants carried a purple flower if they had lost someone to Alzheimer’s; yellow, if they were supporting or caring for someone with Alzheimer’s; blue, for a recent diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and orange to show support for the cause.
Supporters began their walk around the outskirts of the park in unison. Three members of the Bowers family walked in memory of Clark Bowers’ mother Mary Jane Bowers, who passed away four years ago from the disease. Clark said his mother suffered from dementia and Alzheimer’s for about 10 years before passing away.
Katie Ann, who was in seventh grade when her grandmother passed away, remembers that her grandmother loved doing crossword puzzles.
Cindy Bowers, wife of Clark, said one of the most difficult parts of her mother-in-law’s disease exhibited itself when Mrs. Bowers couldn’t remember that her husband had passed away.
“She relived her husband’s death over and over,” Cindy said.
Clark said that just before his mom passed away, she had a couple of days where she was unresponsive, but then suddenly woke up.
“She was completely clear for one day – remembering all of us, and, when she realized it was a Sunday, told me to go to church.”
Cindy said she feels like God gave them a special gift in her clarity, and Clark agreed, adding, “It really helped with all the other times to have her back for that day.”
Trish Tootle spoke to the participants after they completed their lap and shared her journey with her aunt, uncle and father; all three suffered with dementia or Alzheimer’s and that journey began in 2009 with her aunt, followed shortly by her uncle. Tootle and her sister served as caregivers.
“They didn’t remember us or each other, but they would still bow their heads to pray each night when we had our bedtime prayers,” Tootle remembered.
Tootle’s aunt and uncle died three weeks apart, and just a few months after her uncle’s death in January of 2014, her dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and the third journey began.
“About this time one week ago,” Tootle said, “my dad went to be with Jesus, and I gave his euology on Monday. For over eight years, we have dealt with the devastation of Alzheimer’s, losing three of the people closest to us in three-and-a-half years.”
She ended with this encouragement, “Let’s continue to fight hard to keep our memories.”