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September 26, 2013

Hundreds Wade through mud for Alzheimers Awareness

Beta Alpha Psi helps organize volunteers

By Daniel Herda

The Cleveland Alzheimer's Association Chapter hosted its first of three walk-a-thon events to raise money and bring awareness to Alzheimer’s on Saturday, Sept. 21.

The Alzheimer’s Association (AA) is responsible for three things. The first is that they are the largest funding for Alzheimer’s in the U.S. The second is that they provide research and free services, from meetings to a 24-hour helpline that delivers caregivers to patients who need support. The third thing the AA does is bring awareness to the disease, which helped congress unanimously pass the National Alzheimer’s Plan, which is a re-prioritizing and re-orientation of many of the AA’s funds from the National Health Institute and directing it towards finding a cure for the disease.

The sky was gray with rainclouds as hundreds of people piled into the All Pro Freight Stadium in Avon. The volunteers were dressed in orange and purple ponchos and the walkers carried umbrellas, not letting the constant downpour disturb their plans to walk together as they took their seats and waited for their instructions.

The event opened with a speech from Noel Joyce, Alzheimer’s event chair, who spoke on the importance of her organization in an interview while drenched in rain.

“Alzheimer’s is growing faster as our population ages, and there is no cure,” Joyce said.
After Joyce handed out awards, she asked the people in attendance to raise their flowers if they knew someone with Alzheimer’s or had lost someone with Alzheimer’s.

Nearly every person held a flower high, as the rain continued to pour.

After the opening ceremony, the 3-mile walkers were called onto the field to start their journey, which was led by the Amherst High School Marching band. Their walk would start inside the baseball field, circle around the concession stands, and then out into the streets, past the YMCA and looping around near the highway.

John Reese, a full-time worker and rock-band player, said his life is incredibly busy but found it easy to come out and support his girlfriend, who has a parent with Alzheimer’s.

“This is my second year attending and I plan to be at them all,” said Reese.

The 1-mile walkers started shortly after the 3-mile walkers, keeping their route inside the field as they marched.

The workers in the concession stands and the volunteers at the gates were the only people not walking in one of the two groups.

Lynsie Gibson is a volunteer for the organization and is on the committee for the Cleveland West Side Walk and spoke about how she became involved with the group.

“I lost my grandmother to Alzheimer’s, and the cause is really dear to my heart,” Gibson said. “I did not really know about the disease until my grandmother got it, and I want to make more people aware of it.”

Hugs, high-fives, and handshakes were exchanged from the volunteers and the walkers as they finished their miles, with the sunlight coming out as the walk-a-thon was coming to an end.

With the first walk-a-thon over, the organization looked to the future.
Sheryl Berman, community-coordinator and manager for the three walk-a-thon events for the Cleveland chapter, commented on her connection with the organization.
“I am one of the few that does not have a family member with Alzheimer’s,” said Berman.

Beta Alpha Psi, a Cleveland State honorary student-organization that encourages and recognizes scholastic and professional excellence in accounting, finance and information systems, was partly responsible in recruiting volunteers for the event.

BAP assists the AA with setting up, tearing down and cleaning up after the events, sending 20 volunteers to two events in 2012 and around the same number for all events scheduled for 2013, according to Berman.

James Howell, president of BAP, said that eight members of their organization were there on Saturday and that they intend to assist at the upcoming Alzheimer's events.

Berman was at the Tower City Alzheimer’s walk-a-thon four years ago, which attracts at least 2,000 walkers each year, and said that it was a speech from Ashley Hill, who spoke about her grandmother, that inspired her to get involved.

“Hill’s grandfather asked her grandmother to put on some lighter clothes because it was warm outside and her grandmother responded with ‘I don’t know who you are or why you are saying this to me’ and that just hit me hard,” said Berman.
Berman said she could not imagine her life-partner not recognizing her and mentioned that she hears that story too often and will stop at nothing to change it.

The Cleveland Alzheimer’s Association will be hosting their second walk-a-thon at Holden Arboretum in Kirkland on Sept., 29 and their third at Tower City, downtown Cleveland, on Oct.,13.
For more information, go to http://www.alz.org/join_the_cause_tributes.asp.