The 15th Annual AlzNC Walk is coming up later this month, with organizers hoping the effort will serve as a reminder of the importance of education and support for families dealing with Alzheimer's disease.
The Duplin/Greene/Wayne event will take place Saturday, Oct. 28, at Cornerstone Commons downtown, said Carol Lancaster and Lisa Barker, co-chairs for the past five years.
While the emphasis is on patients being diagnosed with related dementias, a growing prevalent need is providing support and respite to caregivers, the organizers said.
"When it hits your family, it's devastating," said Patsy West of Mount Olive, whose mother passed away in December. "It was probably about a four-year battle."
There were different signs early on, which progressed and required full-time care in the last two years, she said.
The goal was to keep the matriarch at home, Mrs. West said.
Fortunately, she had family support, she said, but the additional resources and emotional support that came through AlzNC was priceless.
"This is an excellent way to bring more awareness," she said of the walk. "It makes you think, wow, you better start listening to what this is and try to find a cure.
"I'm sure by this point everybody has somebody in their family, (Alzheimer's) is so prevalent now."
One resource she found helpful was a virtual demonstration on what it is like to be an Alzheimer's patient, she said.
"It gives you a little bit more perspective, we got to see what mama was going through," she said.
Participating in the local walk allows her to keep the connection going with others who have been where she was, she said. It is also a healing of sorts.
"(I do it) to honor my mother and to keep her memory alive in our own way," she said.
Michelle Giles of Greene County also had a motivating reason for being a loyal supporter of the walk.
It is reflected in the team she developed -- the Sara Giles Legacy Tigers, named for her mother, who died of the disease six years ago.
"I learned so much about this horrible disease and how it affects the family," she said. "People were so silent about it. I thought it was lack of education.
"By going to workshops over the years, I saw other people and their battles and that gave me the strength to go on."
She gets emotional about the experience, she says, but it has also made her more resolute to advocate on her mother's behalf.
"I want to continue my mother's legacy to let people know that even though she has expired the fire is still in me to let people know," she said. "My heart cannot let it go."
The goal of this and similar events taking place across the state is to raise funds for Alzheimer's North Carolina -- providing individual and family support, holding educational conferences, training family and professional caregivers, and offering free information, materials and resource referrals.
Locally, there is a support group for relatives and caregivers that meets every other Thursday at the Senior Center in Goldsboro.
There will also be a free dementia caregiver workshop on Nov. 3 at the Senior Center, from 9:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. featuring a virtual dementia demonstration, health screenings and speakers.
The Oct. 28 walk kicks off with registration at 8 a.m., opening ceremony at 9 a.m. and the one-mile walk at 9:30.
The theme this year is "Celebration for a Cure."
While donations are still being accepted throughout the year, the walk itself is also a family fun day of sorts, Barker said.
"Vendors do family things, fundraising and the educational piece but it's about getting out and having a good time," she said.
For information on the walk or other AlzNC services, call the Raleigh office at 919-832-3732, Lancaster at 919-778-8664 or Barker at 919-709-8533.