By Cecy Grisham King, Chairman of the 2011 Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Louisville; Associate Administrator of the Episcopal Church Home; and Director of the Home’s Memory Care Center
When a toddler is learning to walk, the most relevant indicator of success is steady progress in mastering newly-acquired skills, rather than the age at which a child takes those first wobbly steps away from the couch. Parents, often better than anyone, can pick out the tiniest signs that their youngster is gaining the coordination, balance and muscle strength needed to continuously position one chubby foot in front of the other without holding onto furniture and yet while remaining upright. And what parent doesn’t grin ear to ear when Johnny or Susie teeters unsteadily from mom to dad for the very first time?
It’s natural to take pride in our children’s earliest developmental milestones. Walking is one of the first signs that they will someday grow into independent, self-sustaining individuals who can assimilate newly-learned skills and become contributing members of society.
Perhaps that’s part of the reason that sponsored walks have grown so popular as a fundraising activity over the last half-century. Walking represents independence and empowerment. Even as a child participating in a local walkathon, I felt good taking physical action for a cause I cared about. Walking is something most of us can do quite easily to show support; we understand that if enough of us do it, we can make real progress; and it’s an activity during which we can share experiences and gather useful information.
I suspect that sense of contributing to progress is part of what’s behind the growth in the number of individuals who participated in the 2011 Walk To End Alzheimer’s in Louisville on September 10. More than 1,500 people joined together at Waterfront Park that day, an increase of 9.5 percent over the number of 2010 participants, to raise funds for research to end Alzheimer’s and to fund day-to-day services for patients and their caregivers.
As chairman of the 2011 event, I want to thank each one of you who participated. It was heartening to stroll with you on that Saturday morning, to meet some of your moms and dads and grandparents who are struggling with Alzheimer’s, to sign the petals of purple and yellow flowers with our loved ones’ names and plant them in the memory garden, and to cross together over a finish line that represents the future cure for this awful disease.
I would love to report that funds raised by the 2011 Louisville Walk To End Alzheimer’s grew in a fashion similar to participation over 2010. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Our total dropped significantly in 2011, by nearly 8 percent. Moreover, our 2010 fundraising totals were down 17.6 percent from 2009.
That’s not the kind of steady progress that will ensure a cure to the grueling death sentence currently faced by 80,000 Kentuckians. And it’s not the kind of steady progress we need if we are to continue providing education and support for the more than 260,000 individuals taking daily care of their loved ones as they fall into dementia.
So I’m asking those of you who participated in the Walk To End Alzheimer’s on September 10, 2011, to help us make up the difference in 2012. And if you didn’t walk with us last year, please consider walking with us this year.
You can also walk to your phone and call us at 502-451-4266 to volunteer your talents; walk to your checkbook or computer (www.alz.org/kyin) and send in a donation; walk to your neighbor’s and tell them about the many services the Alzheimer’s Association provides in metro Louisville and throughout the state – our 24 hour hotline, our caregiver support groups, and our informative workshops.
Our family members and friends who are newly diagnosed with Alzheimer’s are already forgetting the skills it takes to put one foot in front of the other and yet remain upright; they’re already starting to wobble; they’re already forgetting those basic skills they learned so early in childhood. Let’s not forget them. Let’s keep walking until we find a cure.