Nymeo Field will go purple in mid-October as walkers, many of them wearing purple shirts, gather in the stands.
They will walk for hope, to fundraise for a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease.
The 2019 Walk to End Alzheimer’s is Oct. 13 in Frederick. There will be at least 390 participants, according to the walk’s website. As of Monday, about $96,000 had been raised. The Alzheimer’s Association, which runs the walk, hopes to raise $300,000.
Evie Vander Meer’s first time participating in the annual Western Maryland Alzheimer’s Walk came shortly after her husband, Mark, was diagnosed with early on-set Alzheimers. He was diagnosed in 2014. Their first walk was in 2015.
“When Alzheimer’s becomes part of your life, it kind of replaces so many other things, or most things, you have been focused on,” she said.
She and her husband decided to learn what they could about the disease to help make it better for those who would be diagnosed after him. There is no cure for the neurological disease, but the fundraising from the walk and other Alzheimer’s Association events provides money for research.
“So often we refer to our lives as a journey, and Alzheimer’s is certainly a journey, so it seems fitting to participate in a walk because it’s pretty symbolic for how we saw this season in our lives,” Vander Meer said.
The walk is energizing, she said, and each year participants get deeper into the experience. People at the walk understand what it is like to have a loved one with Alzheimer’s or to experience it themselves.
“It just feels like a giant support group,” Vander Meer said.
Her husband died at the end of 2018. Vander Meer said she plans to participate in a walk this year, although in a different county as she has another place she needs to be during the walk in Frederick.
Like Vander Meer, Julie Peatt Cassady also came to the Alzheimer’s Association because of a personal connection. Her father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.
She participated in the walk, as well as other volunteer advocacy events, Cassaday said.
“It’s just, it can be a very isolating experience to have a loved one diagnosed with the disease,” she said. “ And I would say that from that first experience, the mission, my own mission has been to share the resources of the association with everybody I know, so that they understand that there’s a place for them to turn when they are faced with this devastating disease.”
This year, Cassaday is the walk coordinator for the Western Maryland walk. Her goal is to engage business partners and other organizations to be part of the walk, she said.
People can still register to join the walk, whether as an individual or a team. There is no minimum fundraising requirement, although the first incentive level is $100, which gets people a shirt, Cassaday said.
Those wishing to participate can also join teams, such as RememberWhenZ, which is the team led by Kelli Donaghue.
Donaghue works with families who have loved ones with Alzheimer’s through Home Instead Senior Care, she said. She started as a walker, but now she works to help connect her company with those with Alzheimer’s to help provide more resources.
Like Vander Meer and Cassaday, Donaghue said participating in the walk provides a sense of hope around the disease.
“It’s just a great feeling to be there and not feel helpless against it, which is what you do feel many other times, because everybody has a brain,” Cassaday said. “And this disease really does affect, it can affect everybody that you know.”