Community walks for a cureBy Jennifer Johns | 11/12/2017 3:12pm
When Emily Kent was 3 years old, she lost her grandfather. But as one of the millions of Americans diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, Kent’s grandfather had started losing parts of himself well before then. Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, not only causes severe memory loss, but has become the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Kent, and many in the Tuscaloosa community, want to see an end to this.
That is why she and 168 fellow Tuscaloosa residents are joining together on Saturday, Nov. 11 to participate in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Rain or shine, participants will walk two miles, beginning at Medeiros Park. Before and during the event, participants will work to raise funds and support for the Alzheimer’s Association. As of Wednesday, Tuscaloosa’s walk has earned 65 percent of its $34,000 goal with $21,945.62 raised. This money will go toward Alzheimer’s care, support, research, awareness and advocacy activities.
Kent, a sophomore majoring in music therapy, is the Tuscaloosa chair representative for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s committee. Last year Kent participated in the walk and finished as one of the grand champion fundraisers. She took her dedication to the next level this year as chair representative in charge of execution of the event.
“People don’t expect me to hold this position when they see I’m so young,” Kent said. “It’s been a great opportunity to get to talk to people on campus … I have participated in Walk to End Alzheimer’s all around the country as long as I can remember.”
Kent said a goal of the organization was to increase awareness about the walk to students. By increasing advertising and spreading the news, Kent has done just that. She formed her own team for the walk with some of her sorority sisters from Alpha Omicron Pi. The sorority had 10 members participate last year, and that number has now grown to 32. As of Wednesday, their team has raised $2,210.
Kent believes there will be a great turnout for the event, especially from Greek life. Part of Kent’s efforts to expand the walk’s reach on campus was to make participating acceptable to earn points required for Greek members. However, Kent wants people from all parts of campus to join and reminds students that they can support the cause, even if they can’t do so financially.
“People don’t necessarily know what to do to help,” Kent said. “The walk is free, so anyone can come to support the cause.”
Emily Dozier-Ezell knows the importance of the Walk to End Alzheimer's, having watched a friend's grandmother battle Alzheimer's. A speech pathologist and University graduate, Dozier-Ezell now works for Glen Haven Health and Rehabilitation. Her day-to-day work consists of providing long-term therapeutic care to Glen Haven’s patients – the majority of whom have some form of dementia.
“One of the hardest things is making people feel loved and at home,” Dozier-Ezell said. “Being able to comfort them through their frustrations and anxieties can be difficult.”
Bobbi Grady, development director for the Alzheimer’s Association, gives a fresh perspective to the event with this being her first year working the walks around the state.
“I have a personal connection to the disease,” Grady said. “I took the first opportunity to be a part of (Alzheimer’s Association)… We have nine walks (in Alabama and the Florida Pan Handle), and all have done well.”
Without that personal connection, it is hard for many to understand the hardship of Alzheimer’s for its victims and those around them. While she, Dozier-Ezell and Kent all have connections, Grady said the walk is valuable for everyone.
“Alzheimer’s can touch anybody,” Grady said. “Anybody can suffer. You never know when someone can get it, and we want to be there when that happens.”
Registration for Walk to End Alzheimer’s begins at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday. There will be a ceremony at 9:30, followed by the walk at 9:45. For more information about how to get involved in the walk, visit act.alz.org.