10/23/11 — Families, volunteers walk for Alzheimer's patients, and a cure

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Families, volunteers walk for Alzheimer's patients, and a cure

By Gary Popp
Published in News on October 23, 2011 1:50 AM

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Nearly $50,000 was raised at the Alzheimer's Walk held at Wayne Community College Saturday. The event included a performance by an Elvis Presley impersonator who arrived in a pink Cadillac.

Those who gathered Saturday for the Alzheimer's Walk know exactly what Mary Ann McDonald meant when she described her last year with her 84-year-old father.

It is like your loved one is gone before he or she actually dies, Ms. McDonald said.

"One day, it is like that person in that bed or that chair doesn't know you and can't remember your name," she said.

Ms. McDonald and many others who have family members gripped by Alzheimer's walked two miles this weekend to raise money for Alzheimer's North Carolina, an advocacy group that fights for patients and their families struggling with the disease.

The event not only raised funds, it also provided an opportunity for people, like Ms. McDonald, to interact with others who have friends or family members who are battling Alzheimer's.

"It is definitely worth our time to be here," Ms. McDonald said. "It is comforting to talk to other people who can relate to what you are going through."

Alice Watkins, executive director of Alzheimer's North Carolina, said the walk, now in its 10th year, continues to be a huge success.

"I believe we hit our goal of $50,000," she said. "And, we are proud to keep 100 percent of the funds in the state. Nothing leaves the state."

The money is raised through registration fees, raffle ticket sales and general contributions.

Ms. Watkins said the funds are used to provide education, advocacy, and counseling for Alzheimer's disease victims and their families.

Several area care providers set up booths at the event with information about their services.

Ann Day, owner of Goldsboro Assisted Living and Alzheimer's Care, has been a part of the fundraising walk since its infancy.

"We are very active and want to be as supportive as possible," Ms. Day said. "It is something that is very near and dear to our hearts."

Ms. Day said the disease can affect a family so strongly that it can tear even the closest relationships apart.

"There are no words to describe what it is like to lose a family member while they are still in good physical health," she said.

Ms. Day said the annual walk serves as a respite for those in Wayne County dealing with the disease.

"It lets people know that they are not out there by themselves," she said.

Lloyd Turlington, who has a mother suffering from Alzheimer's, came from northern Wayne County to participate in the walk and to show his support for the cause and the effort to find a cure.

"It is depressing, but you have to deal with it," Turlington said of watching his mother's cognitive abilities fade from the disease.

"It is one of those things that you don't think about until you are affected by it," he said.

That lack of knowledge is one of the reasons Alzheimer's North Carolina works hard to raise awareness and hopefully take one step closer to finding a cure, the volunteers said.