Walking so others can remember
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on October 18, 2009 2:00 AM
Hailey Blizzard, left, Reese Shaeffer, Jennie Moye, David Moye and 13-month-old Riley Moye participate in the Alzheimers Memory Walk Saturday morning. The walk raises money for Alzheimer's research.
Despite the early-morning chill walkers turned for Saturday's 1- to 3-mile Memory Walk. The crowd might have been slightly smaller than normal for the eighth annual event, but they were determined to do their part to find a cure.
Just about everyone attending Saturday's Memory Walk had a story of someone they knew who has been affected by Alzheimer's or dementia.
Faye Davis, a teacher at Charles B. Aycock High School, was accompanied by a group of students from the school's Health Occupations Students of America club, for which she is the adviser.
"This is probably the fourth or fifth year CBA has participated," she said.
It was not a hard sell, said Mrs. Davis, who simply shared her own personal story with students in recent weeks.
"The reason I started doing this is in honor of my father, Willard Ballance," she said. "I tell my kids about Dad -- he has vascular dementia, which is a form of Alzheimer's. When I told my kids about it, they just jumped on board."
Students knocked on doors, reached out to their surrounding community, and raised $926, Mrs. Davis said.
"We have only been raising money for about two weeks and this is how much they have done," she said. "They have really inspired me. I'm just very proud of them."
One of the students, sophomore Tiffany Godwin, said she had a great-grandmother who died from Alzheimer's several years ago. It's the reason she turned out to walk, she said.
"I just decided to walk because it's for a good cause," said Brittany Parrish, also a sophomore.
Mychayla Allen echoed her classmates' sentiments.
"I used to work at the Brian Center during the summer, so I knew it was a good cause," she said.
This is the eighth year for the Memory Walk. Marcia Mooring has been there every year.
As a member of the flag committee, she was putting up cloth flags around the fountain at Herman Park, each bearing the name of someone affected by the disease.
"The flags are purchased in honor or in memory of someone with Alzheimer's," she explained. "It just shows that the people are missed. The idea is that this is a hurtful illness -- not only for the person, it also hurts their family."
Saturday morning boasted crisp fall weather, with many of the 155 registered walkers bundled up with hats and mittens. Organizers said $29,000 was raised, with more expected to "trickle in" as donations continue to be tallied.
"I don't know that the crowd is as large as it has been," said Tina Brewer, one of this year's event co-chairwomen. "The weather could certainly be a factor in that. We're also starting a new cycle with a new committee."
Gerrie Shaeffer, her co-chairwoman, took a different stance, though.
"We're not comparing this year to any other year," she said. "I think this is a good crowd for our first year and next year we'll look at ways to make it even better."
Eight categories of walkers participated this year, the women said -- church groups, student groups, senior organizations, medical groups, skilled nursing, assisted living, businesses and families.
The crowd ranged from toddlers pushed in strollers to senior citizens, all enjoying the one- to three-mile stroll to raise awareness and research funds for Alzheimer's. Vendors also lined part of the pathway at Herman Park.
Glen Care of Mount Olive set up a booth promoting the assisted living facility, which specializes in Alzheimer's, said William Carroll, operations manger.
Crystal Quinn, activity director, was on hand to point out some of the services at the center.
Suzy VanHoozier of Goldsboro, who works at Sam's Club, brought along several family members to walk with the Sam's team, which raised $1,400 this year.
With her were sister Dianna Taylor of Goldsboro and daughter Courtney Taylor, a college student, and two grandchildren, Tyler Wallace, 5, and Madison Sullivan, 4, both of Mount Olive. They planned to walk three miles, Ms. VanHoozier said.
"My mother-in-law had Alzheimer's. She passed away," she said. "We have always walked, ever since the walk began, for her."
"It's just something we do every year," Ms. Taylor said. "We enjoy it."
The weather and the economy may have altered the course of this year's walk, but it's still a cause worth fighting for, several said.
JoAnn Daniels, last year's chairwoman, said she was very proud of the new committee of workers for this year's event.
"They have met adversity as far as the economy and had the courage to keep on doing it," she said.
Alice Watkins, executive director, Eastern N.C. Alzheimer's Association, said hopefully there will come a day when the disease will be erased "and we won't have to come out on days like this."
For now, though, that is not the case.
In fact, she said, "The numbers are increasing with this disease -- we're losing people at an earlier age," she said. "It's no longer a 65-plus disease. It's now 39 and 49 and 53 and 55, but what we're doing today is to help create awareness."