Hundreds of people converged in the parking lot of C.Z. Boyer-Taylor Chapel in downtown Farmington for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s on Saturday morning.
The parking lot was filled with purple shirts as walkers registered with event volunteers at booths and people were gathering around for the opening ceremony.
Audra Caine from B104 opened the ceremony and spoke of some of the challenges and statistics associated with people affected by Alzheimer’s disease.
Caine said that more than 5 million people are affected by Alzheimer’s and another 16 million serve as their unpaid caregivers. She explained the need for fundraisers such as the Walk to End Alzheimer’s as they provide crucial support for Alzheimer’s support services like the 24/7 Alzheimer’s Association Helpline and educational information through Alz.org.
This year’s walk raised several thousands of dollars to go toward the cause. The money was raised by individual participants and teams. Caine announced the top individuals and teams who raised the most funds for the cause this year. Darlene Milfelt-Klein was the individual who raised the most money bringing in $7,498.65 for the cause. The top team that raised the most money this year was Team Leroy. They were able to raise $10,151.
Next, Madison Brown spoke at the ceremony representing one of the walk’s national sponsors, Edward Jones Investments.
Brown spoke on behalf of the investment firm and explained the company’s deep desire to one day find a cure for this disease which has affected so many people.
The event is made possible by a committee of people who volunteer for the cause typically because they have had a loved one affected by the incurable illness.
Walk Chairperson Laura Laramore of First State Community Bank’s corporate team, said that her motivation in volunteering for the fundraiser came as a result of losing both her parents to the disease.
Purple, orange, yellow, and blue spinning flower pinwheels were being held high by participants during the opening ceremony. Each of the four colors of the spinning flowers highlighted the different connections to Alzheimer’s of the people who came out to the walk.
The orange flower represents people who participate in the walks and fundraisers because they support the cause and a vision of a world without Alzheimer’s.
The purple flower represents people who have lost someone to Alzheimer’s.
The yellow flower represents people who offer care and support others affected by the disease.
Lastly, the blue flower represents people like Lonni Schicker who are currently living with the disease.
Schicker was next to the podium. She is living with Alzheimer’s disease and gave a sobering firsthand account of some of the challenges she faces and the freedom and abilities that have been taken away from her by the disease.
Schicker who has spent a life serving in the education and healthcare fields was diagnosed with the disease at age 58. She said thankfully it has mostly remained in the beginning stages of the disease but has lately shown signs of progression.
She said that everyone talks about having “their person” when dealing with Alzheimer’s. Schicker wanted to thank her son who is “her person” and helps her through all aspects of life in dealing with this debilitating condition.
“This disease can take so much from us,” said Schicker. “I’m a nurse and a college professor. I have a doctorate in education but I can no longer read.
“I’m a nurse and now I have to rely on someone for my care,” Schicker explained. “I’m a healthcare professional who can no longer navigate the healthcare system. Things like coverage, medications, and appointments and referrals all have to be managed for me.”
Schicker mentioned that she is an independent woman and has found that one of the freedoms that the disease has robbed of her is her ability to drive.
She summed up how she felt about combating this disease with the legend of the oak tree. She had heard the story from a Hallmark card that she had purchased for herself after finding the card’s words to be inspirational in her struggle.
She described an oak tree in the forest that encountered hurricane-force winds. All of the surrounding trees were falling down but the oak tree was still standing, while being battered by the powerful wind. The oak tree loses a little bark and loses its leaves but remains standing all the while. Finally, the wind, after battering this oak tree for so long says, “I’m exhausted. I don’t understand how you’re still standing.”
The tree says to the wind, “The more you come at me, the deeper my roots get. And I will continue to dig in my roots against you for as long as I can because now that I’ve encountered you, I know how strong I am.”
Caine then led the crowd in proudly raising their colored flowers signifying their unity in the fight for a cure.
She said they one day hope to add a white flower which will represent the first person to ever be cured of Alzheimer’s disease. She also announced that this year’s white flower representative was Team Leroy.
Walkers then lined up behind the Milfelt Wrecker and Auto Body tow truck which led the charge of the Alzheimer’s warriors through downtown Farmington.
Event-goers made a giant loop and made their way back to the funeral home parking lot where lunch was served.
Overall, Laramore estimated that about 350 people came out to join the walk. She said that it was about what she had been expecting.
“We are just so grateful for the whole community that came together,” said Laramore. “We had a great crowd and we’re very proud to be a part of this very generous community.”