If the statistic that one in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia does not put into perspective how many lives are affected by memory-related diseases, it was clearly evident by how many colored flowers were held and placed in a small “garden” by participants Saturday in the 10th annual Santa Clarita Walk to End Alzheimer’s.
Pinwheel flowers were handed out to each participant to coordinate with what situation they were dealing with involving Alzheimer’s and other memory-loss-related diseases.
Blue represented someone with living with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. Purple for those who had lost someone to the disease. Yellow for someone who is currently supporting or caring for a person living with Alzheimer’s. Orange for those who support the cause and the Alzheimer’s Association’s vision of a world without Alzheimer’s and all other dementia.
“It’s very important because a lot of times we don’t understand why our loved ones are going through what they are going through,” said walker Juana Benitez while holding a yellow flower.
Benitez walked with her team, “the caregivers,” as a way to get resources and information, so that they could properly care for their family members living with Alzheimer’s and other memory-loss-related diseases.
Alzheimer’s afflicts approximately 6.5 million people in the United States. On Saturday, more than 500 people tied up their laces, and walked 2 miles in Bridgeport Park to help put an end to Alzheimer’s disease.
Planning the event was a six-month process and dozens of volunteers arrived at 5:45 a.m. to help set up the event.
Before the event, 485 people signed up online to participate. Planning committee member Kristi Eckard estimated that many more arrived the morning of the walk.
The goal of the walk is in the title, to put an end to Alzheimer’s disease.
“My hope is that in the future, instead of walking like we are today, we will all be dancing in celebration of the cure,” said event co-chair Stephanie Wallace.
Before the walk began, a woman sporting a blue flower was honored as a representative for the cause: Oakmont Senior Living resident Maria DeFranco.
Living with Alzheimer’s disease at age 93 couldn’t stop DeFranco from dancing with her family.
“Just because they have Alzheimer’s, doesn’t mean they still don’t have those emotions of joy and happiness,” said Christina Spears, activity director at Oakmont.
DeFranco’s recognition comes from her contagious energy at Oakmont. The minute she enters a room, everyone lights up and says, “Maria’s here!”
She greatly appreciates events like these that help bring awareness to the disease she battles.
“It’s very beautiful,” said DeFranco.
In a sea of blue, purple, yellow and orange, walkers yelled out a countdown before beginning the walk to end Alzheimer’s disease.
Eckard said that the fundraising goal for the year is $145,000. As of the end of the walk, the Santa Clarita Walk to End Alzheimer’s has raised $134,871 toward the cause.
Those wishing to donate can do so at bit.ly/3CPwDtO.