'We're needed now more than ever': Ardmore Walk to End Alzheimer's to be held in October

Sierra Rains
People hold their flowers prior to start of the 2017 Walk to End Alzheimer's in Salisbury.

Alzheimer’s disease has not taken a hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic, and neither are those working to raise funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research. 

The Alzheimer’s Association’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s is the world’s largest event to raise awareness and funds to help fight the disease. Millions of Americans have mobilized for the cause since 1989, but the walk will look a little different this year. 

This year, the walk is everywhere. Ardmore Walk to End Alzheimer’s manager Lyndse Sager said the Alzheimer’s Association is encouraging participants to walk as individuals, or in small groups on sidewalks, tracks and trails across Ardmore and communities nearby at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 3. 

“If you don’t happen to live in Ardmore or you’re busy that day, that’s fine. You can still sign up and participate and walk wherever you’re at,” Sager said. “Anywhere in southeast Oklahoma, anywhere in Carter County — you can walk in your neighborhood, you can walk with your friends, your families, maybe other people on your team.”

Traditional components of the Walk to End Alzheimer’s are being replicated online and in creative new ways. “We have some really awesome tools this year that can still be that bridge for connection. We worked really hard on getting virtual programs ready to go for our walk this year,” Sager said. 

Participants will have access to the Walk to End Alzheimer’s mobile app. On the morning of the walk, participants will be able to view an opening ceremony on the app featuring local speakers and a presentation of Promise Flowers to honor the personal reasons participants complete the walk. 

Though this aspect of the walk is primarily virtual this year, Ardmore’s Central Park will be filled with purple, orange, yellow and blue flowers for a “view only” Promise Garden created by a small group of Alzheimer’s Association staff. 

“We’re still going to have that at Central Park, it’s just going to be planted,” Sager said. “So feel free, it’s a public park, you can go and walk there, we’re just not going to actually be there.”

The mobile app can also be used to track steps and distance, follow a virtual walk path, manage fundraisers and access information and resources from the Alzheimer’s Association and families affected by the disease. 

More than five million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Many of the individuals with the disease are also at higher risk from COVID-19. 

“A lot of our constituents that have the disease and are in some of these living facilities, a lot of those have been on lock down and they’re just now maybe releasing their guidelines to have their loved ones visit them,” Sager said. “So a lot of them haven’t even been able to see their loved one who has Alzheimer’s or dementia and that’s just devastating.”

In some cases, isolation from family and friends has escalated the intensity of the disease. Sager said she has seen this firsthand with her own family. 

“My Papa has Alzheimer’s and I haven’t been able to spend as much time with him as I would like,” Sager said. “I feel like it has definitely sped up his Alzheimer’s a little bit just because he is not able to have those interactions as much with my kids, his great grandsons.”

Sager’s grandmother has also experienced a decline in health as she has had to take on the role as her husband’s primary caregiver. Caring for someone who has Alzheimer's Disease can be stressful and overwhelming. “My Nanny, she went from doing all of these things, mowing the yard at 78 years old, and cooking and doing all of these things, so she can’t even do that anymore. It’s been really hard to see,” Sager said. 

The Alzheimer’s Association, which helps provide free care and support for many individuals with the disease, as well as caretakers, is needed now more than ever, Sager said.

Fundraising is extremely important this year as the association has not been able to bring in as many funds as it has previously due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As of Thursday, Sept. 24, the Ardmore walk has only raised $670 — far from the $71,500 goal. 

“Our walk is our number one fundraiser for Alzheimer’s — for research and supporting our free programs and services,” Sager said. “Without the walk we are not able to provide our free services to any of our families. We have actually provided free services to over 200 families in the Ardmore area, so we are very much needed and used.”

It is free to sign up for the walk, but participants are encouraged to raise at least $100. Meeting the $100 goal will earn participants a free t-shirt. Individuals are also asked to take photos of themselves during the walk and post them to the Ardmore Walk to End Alzheimer’s Facebook group to help raise awareness.

To register, visit www.ardmorewalk.org. Sager said the association will still be collecting donations and fundraising until Dec. 31. To make a donation, individuals can visit the Ardmore Walk to End Alzheimer’s website or contact Lyndse Sager at lrsager@alz.org or (918) 697-8800. 

“We’re needed now more than ever, so we just have to continue the fight to end Alzheimer’s and spread awareness,” Sager said. “We had to change how we do things just like everybody else in the country, but Alzheimer’s is still here and Alzheimer’s is not going away any time soon unfortunately.”