By 10 a.m Saturday temperatures had already eclipsed the 80 degree mark in Valencia, but the late morning heat did not discourage a steadfast group nearly 1,000 strong from hitting the paseos determined to find a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease.
This group, plastered in bright purple, silver and gold, took part in the 5th annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s at Bridgeport Park.
Organizers, volunteers and participants began to congregate at the park as early as 7 a.m., where they were treated to an opening ceremony and to the grooves of a live band.
As the clock neared 10 a.m. participants lined up along the starting line, waiting anxiously for the shrill ring of the starting pistol, before taking off in their teams to complete the 1.5 mile walk over the Bridgeport paseos.
For Rick Ferrante, this year’s event chair who put more than a year’s worth of planning into the event, the beginning of the walk was more than just a logistical success.
“There are people right here in our community, in Santa Clarita, that are dealing with this disease,” Ferrante said. “It is hard to try to find someone who is not connected somehow to Alzheimer’s, and those people need support.”
Ferrante and countless other volunteers alike cited support as one of the organization’s two main goals. The other – funding research.
“The second goal is to fund research to find a cure. It’s really expensive – clinical trials and things like that. All those monies have to come from somewhere to fund the research to find a cure,” he said.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association’s webpage, more than 5 million Americans are living with the disease, which represents the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. An estimated 1 in 10 persons older than the age of 65 is afflicted with the condition.
Participant Karen Spalter’s husband of 39 years represents that one person in 10.
“He has early onset dementia and he’s in the final stages,” she said.
Inspired by her husband to make a difference, Spalter did quite that – literally.
For this year’s event, she was able to assemble a team of over 15 people, which she named ‘Team Make a Difference,’ to come out to walk for a cure.
“I twisted everybody’s arms” she jokingly laughed when asked how she was able to piece together such a large team.
“Fellow workers, family, friends – they’re all horrified by the disease and want to do something too. So it was actually easy to assemble a team. I just reached out to everybody,” she said.
Karen Spalter’s daughter, Stephanie, who also participated as part of Team Make a Difference, expressed admiration for her team’s efforts and for the event as a whole.
“It’s hereditary on my dad’s side – both grandma and grandpa had it,” she said. “I think it’s always a good thing, people getting together with a common thing to rally behind, so it’s good that Santa Clarita itself does its own walk.”
Ferrante was more than pleased with this year’s turnout, but he and other organizers emphasized the event’s need for volunteers.
“We need volunteers, we need sponsors, we need vendors – all the help we can get.” Ferrante said, encouraging all who can to volunteer their efforts to help cure Alzheimer’s.
“We’re trying to get rid of this thing! To find a cure!”