Walk to end Alzheimer's

Annual walk held at Willow Park, money raised to fight disease

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BENNINGTON — One by one, colorful cloth flowers were raised in the air, each color representing the promise to honor, care, and to fight for those who are living with Alzheimer's Disease and their caregivers.

The cloth flowers were provided by the Vermont Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association at their annual Bennington Walk to End Alzheimer's. This year's walk took place on Saturday afternoon at Willow Park. The Bennington walk is one of five walks that takes place throughout the state each September.

Each year, the walk kicks off with an opening ceremony. During the ceremony, flowers were raised to mark each reason why people decided to participate. Each color represented a different reason why an attendee participated.

Purple symbolized those who have lost someone to Alzheimer's; yellow for those who support or care for somebody with the disease; orange for supporting the fight against Alzheimer's, and blue was for those who currently have the disease. New this year was the color white, symbolizing hope.

The Bennington walk sought to raise $13,500. As of Saturday, over $8,000 had been estimated to have been donated, according to Martha Richardson, the executive director of the Vermont Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association. The Clare Bridge Purple Forget-Me-Nots, Brookdale Fillmore Pond's team, raised the largest amount of money - $1,600. Melissa Squires, the chair of the Bennington Walk, was the top individual fundraiser

The Vermont Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association has a goal of raising a total of $371,000. About $313,000 has been raised thus far. The funds go to care and support for those who either have Alzheimer's or for those who are caregivers and family. It also helps to promote research and public policy to help find treatments and to try to find a cure for the disease.

The group also has efforts to promote brain health and to raise awareness about how lifestyle choices can increase people's risks for the disease, Richardson said. Eating, exercise, and mind stimulation can have an impact.

According to the Walk to End Alzheimer's website, about 79 percent of the money goes to Alzheimer's care, support, research, awareness, and advocacy. Fifteen percent goes toward fundraising, while 6 percent goes toward administrative purposes.

A total of 16 teams were registered for the walk and about 56 participants registered. It was estimated that about 120 people showed up for the event.

Sisters Pam Hunt and Pat Arnold, of Hoosick Falls, N.Y., walked in honor of their mother who suffered with Alzheimer's disease for about six years. Arnold's grandson, Karson Holbrook, also walked with them.

They each would like to see awareness grow larger and to be much more well known. Hunt described watching her mother battle Alzheimer's as "heartbreaking."

Hunt and Arnold's mother passed away in 2014 at the age of 75. She was the first person in her family to have developed Alzheimer's.

"I just wish there was a cure," Arnold said. "It's a horrible disease. I know there's other horrible diseases, but I feel that this is the worst."

Arnold said that throughout her mother's fight with the disease, her mother was very confused and knew something was wrong, but couldn't explain it. It was extremely hard on the family, Arnold said, it was also hard on her grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Before she was diagnosed, the family knew what Alzheimer's was, but they didn't know exactly what to expect.

"Her particular type isn't hereditary, but there still is a worry about getting it," Arnold said. "I'm getting close to the age where she found out she had it and it's a scary thought. That's why I'm here, to help find a cure."

For the first three years following her diagnosis, Arnold and Hunt's mother lived on her own. She eventually moved in with Arnold before having to be placed into nursing home.

"That made her even worse," Arnold explained. "Moving from her home, to my house, and to an unknown environment."

The 2017 Miss. Vermont Outstanding Teen, Jenna Lawrence attended Bennington's walk. She walked to honor her grandmother who passed away last year from Alzheimer's disease. Lawrence's grandmother was diagnosed when she was five years old.

The Alzheimer's Association's Walk to End Alzheimer's is the world's largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer's care, support, and research. Walks take place in over 600 communities nationwide.

Donations for the Bennington Walk are open until the end of October. To learn more, visit, http://act.alz.org/site/TR/Walk2017/VT-Vermont?fr_id=10182&pg=entry

Reach the Bennington Banner at news@benningtonbanner.com.


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