Hope hit the ground...walking Saturday for senior citizens and younger victims of Alzheimer's disease, as hundreds of supporters hoping for a cure took to the rainy path that surrounds in Highland Park.
Many attendees dawned purple T-shirts that read, “Walk to End Alzheimer's,” and carried flower windmills—each color representing caregivers, victims, supporters and those who had the disease and have died. Supporters began planting the windmills at the start of the walk in “Promise Garden,” a small, designated field by the park entrance.
Across the U.S., nearly 33,000 teams in coordination with the Alzheimer's Association have signed up for walks scheduled into October. On the North Shore, groups have raised more than $48,000 so far, according to the association's estimates. Saturday's 3.2-mile walk had a fundraising goal of $75,000.
Since 1989, the association has raised approximately $347 million from the walks.
“The big thing about Alzheimer's is that it touches people," said Kara Dahl, special events manager for the walk and the Alzheimer's Association of Illinois. “Hope [matters] if only two people show up. Hope in numbers is not an iffy thing, anymore.”
The association, which provides support to families dealing with Alzheimer’s and funds research, has been seeking a cure for the debilitating type of dementia since its inception in 1980.
Alzheimer's affects about 5.3 million people in the U.S., the majority of them age 65 and older. The medical costs associated with the disease are more than $148 billion annually, according to the association’s estimates.
But the road ahead is still a long one.
"I think there remains a lot of stigma [toward the disease]," said Danielle Dodson, care navigator and clinical supervisor for the association of Illinois. "A lot of people think memory loss is a natural part of aging."
In that vein, the association's mission is to part the clouds of ignorance, so research, awareness and support can shine through.
And it has made a lot of progress, Dodson said proudly. Foremost, the association organized to lobby for the passage of the National Alzheimer's Project Act (NAPA) in January 2011. The law "will create a national strategic plan to address and overcome the rapidly escalating crisis of Alzheimer’s," according to the association.
The NAPA advisory council includes organizations, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the National Science Foundation and the Administration on Aging.
For more information on the national plan and how you can help the association, check out its website at alz.org.
Stay tuned to Patch for more on the story. Like your local Patch on Facebook.