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2020 LaGrange Walk to End Alzheimer’s to take place virtually

By: Hunter Riggall 

Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 LaGrange Walk to End Alzheimer’s is still on — with a twist.

The walk typically takes place at Vernon Woods Retirement Community, but this year will occur virtually and around the city, the Georgia Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association announced on Wednesday. The walk will occur Sept. 12 and benefits research, care and support for Alzheimer’s patients. While some funds are directed to researchers around the country, the care and support funds benefit people in LaGrange and 27 nearby communities.

Participants are encouraged to walk in the neighborhood of their choice, taking necessary safety precautions.

Autumn Amos, the development director for the Columbus office of the Alzheimer’s Association, oversees the walk and its associated fundraising effort. Reworking the walk isn’t easy, she said.

“It’s been really challenging,” Amos said. “These are challenging times for fundraising.”

Last year, the organization surpassed its $50,500 goal, raising about $52,000, Amos said. More than 350 people participated. To receive a t-shirt for the walk, each participant is asked to raise $100, or simply donate that amount themselves. 

As of July 16, this year’s walk has raised about 26% of its goal — $14,205 — and has 37 participants registered. While appreciative of “wonderful support from the community,” Amos said those numbers aren’t ideal, even with about two months to go. 

“We’re definitely behind where we were at this time last year,” Amos said. “People are cutting down on things like that, people are scared of COVID.”

The walk is still looking for more sponsors and fundraising teams. Local sponsors for 2020 include Hyundai Transys Powertrain, The Medicine Cabinet of LaGrange, Acti-Kare Responsive In-home Care and Sister Solutions.

Those who cannot or choose not to walk in person will still be able to engage with the event virtually. An opening ceremony will take place at Vernon Woods and be streamed for people to watch at home.

“We are very excited about it and are just eager to get the community involved. Even if they can’t walk, if they can just be there on that day and virtually capture their support,” said Debbie Malone Bazen, a co-chair of the walk.

Bazen is co-chairing the walk with her sister, Tammy Malone Strickland. The two became involved with the Alzheimer’s Association last year and were compelled to get involved because of personal reasons. Members of their family have Alzheimer’s, which is a hereditary disease. They also have friends in LaGrange who have been affected by it.

The opening ceremony is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. on the day of the event, with the walk planned to start at 9. 

“We became the host-site when the walk began in Troup County because we serve seniors, and it’s this generation that is most affected by Alzheimer’s,” said Susan Burdick, director of Vernon Woods retirement community. “We have taken on this cause to spread the word about the importance of Alzheimer’s education and research, both of which are funded through proceeds from the walk. I encourage everyone to choose someone in their life affected by Alzheimer’s, and participate in their honor in the online walk this year.”

Much of the planning is still in the works. 

Bazen said she hopes Lafayette Square will be one focus point, and that others participate in the walk on different parts of The Thread. Participants are encouraged to walk 2 to 3 miles.

In a typical group walk, different participants hold color-coded pinwheel flowers — blue for those diagnosed with the disease, purple for those who have lost people to the disease, yellow for care workers and orange for other supporters. In lieu of passing these flowers out, the organizers will have “promise gardens” located at Vernon Woods and Poplar Creek where people can visit to view the flowers or take pictures with them.

Bazen and the other organizers want to keep participants safe while continuing to host the walk and fundraiser in whatever form possible. Those who wish to participate can register at https://act.alz.org/site/TR/Walk2020/GA-Georgia?pg=entry&fr_id=13380.

“We’re not forgetting the fact that Alzheimer’s is not going away,” Bazen said.