Published Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Walkers come together to help combat Alzheimer's disease

By W. WINSTON SKINNER

winston@newnan.com

More than 200 people turned out to walk at Ashley Park on Sept. 29 – all of them hoping the day will come when a cure is found for Alzheimer’s disease.

Coweta County’s 2012 Southern Crescent Walk To End Alzheimer’s was a satellite walk of the walk held Oct. 6 in Peachtree City. Beth Lever, one of the organizers of the Coweta event, said the goal of 200 participants was exceeded.

The day offered lots of fun – colorful T-shirts and paper flowers, door prizes and the music of the Tall People. Underlying the fun, however, was a strong desire to beat Alzheimer’s and find cures for all kinds of dementia.

Ellie Farrington and Charlotte King Eady were among the top fundraisers for the Coweta event. Farrington raised more than $1,700.

“My family has raised some, too,” Farrington said – noting a daughter raised $500.

Farrington’s husband, Bernie, died of Alzheimer’s. Farrington spoke of the impact of the disease on people in her own age group.

“I’m 85 years old,” she said. She noted “one half of the people my age” are expected to have some kind of dementia.

Many will suffer with dementia, while others are “going to look after someone” who has memory loss, Farrington said.

“It’s not too late to do something for my children,” she said.

Eady said she was participating because of “my mother-in-law, who was a mother to me for 30 years.”

She recalled the pain of seeing her mother-in-law as her dementia progressed. “I lost her just a little bit and a little it and a little bit,” Eady said.

“Even though she was there in body, I lost her. I don’t want to lose anybody else like that,” Eady said. “That’s why I walk.”

Rena Walker said she was walking “for the future generations of my family” – hoping there will be a cure. She spoke of “what it does to the lives of people.”

Participants held oversized paper flowers of various colors – indicating how they had been impacted by Alzheimer’s. “What a beautiful bouquet,” Lever said from the grandstand as she look out on the crowd holding the flowers aloft.

The Tall People Band provided music as people gathered, registered and turned in donations at Ashley Park. Members of the group are Michele Bowden, Pat Mrizek and Matthew Mrizek.

About 9:30, Lever announced the $20,000 goal had been reached and exceeded. “We have $20,000. It’s still coming in, and we’re still counting,” she said.

“Donations are still coming in, and we want them to come in before the end of November,” Lever said. To donate, visit www.southernalzwalk.org .

Alzheimer’s “can strike anyone,” according to Dan Nelson, public awareness chair for the Southern Crescent Walk To End Alzheimer’s.

About 5.3 million Americans have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, including more than 200,000 in Georgia. Nelson noted there also are “nearly 11 million people who are caregivers.”

The disease “causes healthy brain tissue to deteriorate, leading to memory loss and cognitive impairment,” Nelson said. “It is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S.”

Although there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, “new medications slow its progress and improve the patient’s ability to function,” Nelson said. “Significant research is ongoing to find the cause and cure.”

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