SCHENECTADY – The 2021 Walk to End Alzheimer’s, slated for Saturday, Oct. 2 at Mohawk Harbor, isn’t simply a fundraiser.
“We’ve always called our Walk to End Alzheimer’s the world’s largest support group,” said Stefanie Bastien, the director of development of the Alzheimer’s Association’s Northeast Chapter.
The local chapter hosts several walks per year to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care and research. At each walk, there is usually a mix of people who are caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s and people who have been in some way affected by it.
“We’re able to bring together people that are impacted in so many different ways by the disease and there’s many families that have connected at the walk and continued that relationship after the event and it’s just so wonderful to see that because it’s a difficult disease to navigate on your own,” Bastien said.
Raymond Shafer can certainly attest to that. He started volunteering with the association not too long after his father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s around six years ago. He’s taken part in and helped to organize the last few local Walk to End Alzheimer’s events.
“It’s important to me because it just keeps me connected with other people within the Alzheimer’s community; people that are going through the same thing that my family’s going through,” Shafer said. “Just having that community, and having the walk there with everybody else that’s in the same situation … it’s just that connection that really helps move us forward and it helps to understand that we’re out there trying to find a cure for this disease.”
As a child of someone with Alzheimer’s the possibility that Shaffer might be diagnosed with it is never far from his mind. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 6 million Americans are living with the disease, including 410,000 New Yorkers. More than 11 million family members and friends across the United State provide care to people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
With the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, organizers are hoping to raise $153,000.
“The walk is just near and dear to my heart now and I’m glad I’ve been able to get on the committee and I’m always trying to bring more people in because the more people that know about it and support it the more chance we’re going to be able to find a cure to help folks that may be [diagnosed] with Alzheimer’s,” Shafer said.
Last year, because of the pandemic, organizers had people walk in their own neighborhoods or places of choice. This year, there will be an in-person event as well as a chance to participate virtually, including viewing the Promise Garden Ceremony, which starts off the walk and signifies the walkers’ solidarity in fighting against the disease.
“We’re excited to move forward with an in-person event but, of course, we are offering opportunities for those that are not comfortable coming together in person,” Bastien said. “If people want to walk in their own neighborhood we have a mobile app that they can download on their phones and that mobile app will give them the opportunity to still view a Promise Garden ceremony.”
For those attending in person, there will be physical distancing guidelines, as well as contactless registration and hand sanitizing stations.
“Walk to End Alzheimer’s supports local care and local services which are so important to those families impacted by Alzheimer’s disease and it’s certainly been a difficult year and a half with the pandemic for those individuals so we’re looking forward to bringing the community together to fight Alzheimer’s,” Bastien said.
Participants can check-in at Mohawk Harbor starting at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 2. The opening ceremony will start at 11:30 a.m. and the walk will follow.
To register as an individual walker or team captain and to receive the latest updates, visit alz.org/walk.