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Walk to End Alzheimer's surpasses fundraising goal

Republican & Herald - 9/10/2017

Sept. 10--SCHUYLKILL HAVEN -- The annual Walk to End Alzheimer's at Bubeck Park raised more than $45,000 Saturday for Alzheimer's care, support and research.

Hosted by the Schuylkill County Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, the annual fundraiser is now in its fifth year and featured 280 walkers and 60 teams raising at least $45,000, Krista Somers, constituent events manager for the Alzheimer's Association, said. The goal was $39,500.

"It was better than we expected," Kristie Ondisco, event co-chairwoman, said. "We have a fabulous team of workers who worked hard all year to make this happen."

Prior to the 1.5-mile walk around Stoyer's Dam, there was a ceremony that included guest speakers. Every participant then picked a plastic flower from the garden and carried it while walking.

There were four colors, each representing ways people are affected by the disease. Purple represented a loved one who died from the disease, orange was for advocacy, blue meant they have a loved one with the disease and yellow is for the caregivers.

Every color had a guest speaker. Phyllis Gallagher, who also served as co-chairwoman for the event, spoke for advocacy. Her husband, John, was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's 10 years ago and is now in a nursing facility.

"I tell my husband's story," Gallagher said. "My mother also had Alzheimer's. She passed the same year my husband first had symptoms. Many people don't realize that some people lose their ability to walk and cognitive functions. It's not just forgetting where you put your keys. It is forgetting what a key is."

Advocacy helped convince the Senate Appropriations Committee to approve last week an additional $414 million increase for Alzheimer's and dementia research in the 2018 budget, Gallagher said.

A nursing assistant since she was 17 years old, Ondisco said it was seeing the affects of the disease that pushed her to co-chair the event with Gallagher.

"I've been caring for people with this disease, so it was something I wanted to make sure that people are aware of in the community and I think this year we were louder than ever before," she said.

Alzheimer's disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Alzheimer's Association website at www.act.alz.org. More than 5 million Americans are living with the disease and it is the only cause of death in the top 10 in America that cannot be prevented, cured or slowed.

"The disease is growing, so more people are affected every year," Somers said.

The two platinum sponsors for the Walk to End Alzheimer's this year were Rosewood Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, Schuylkill Haven, and Luther Ridge at Seiders Hill, Pottsville.

Melissa Clarke, director of admissions for Luther Ridge at Seiders Hill and event committee member, said the nursing facility has hosted lunch and learn programs throughout the year with two of them focusing on early symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer's and how the disease affects behavior.

"Many of our residents have dementia or Alzheimer's so we not only see the effect it has on them but also their families and caregivers as well as the community," Clarke said. "This is an event many people look forward to because it is a way remember those we have lost to the disease."

Contact the writer: mgilgerjr@republicanherald.com; 570-628-6023

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(c)2017 the Republican & Herald (Pottsville, Pa.)

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