Alzheimer’s Walk has personal tie to chairman | ParkRecord.com

Alzheimer’s Walk has personal tie to chairman

Parkite Nick Nickerson, right, dances with his mom Patricia in 1992. Nickerson, who is chair of the Wasatch Back Park City End Alzheimer’s Walks, got involved with Alzheimer’s advocacy after his mother was diagnosed with the disease.

There are 29,000 individuals in Utah who have officially been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, and the cost of the disease around the country is escalating drastically, according to Nick Nickerson, chairman of the Wasatch Back Park City Walk to End Alzheimer's.

"This year, it's predicted that $236 billion out of Medicaid and Medicare will pay for Alzheimer's care and some dementias," Nickerson told The Park Record. "The projected cost for 2050 at the current rate is $1 trillion. That really brings home that we have to do something."

That's one of the reasons why Nickerson is organizing the walk that will be held on Saturday, Aug. 27.

The walk will start at the Newpark plaza at Kimball Junction in front of the Swaner EcoCenter and will follow the 224 Conn Trail to the Wallin Barn and back.

"It's just under two miles, but it will be a lot of fun," said Nickerson. "It will be more of a celebration and party.

Adults, kids, grandparents, even people who have early onsets of Alzheimer's will also come to walk.

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"Some people walk in honor of those who are currently struggling with the disease," he said. "Others walk in honor of those who have already passed away, and many carry a picture of the person or have T-shirts made with the faces of those they walk for."

Although registration will be taken the day of the event starting at 9 a.m., registration can also be done by visiting alz.org.

"We're planning to start walking at 10 a.m.," Nickerson said.

There is another, more personal reason why Nickerson is chairman of the Wasatch Back Park City Walk to End Alzheimer's.

"I really didn't know about Alzheimer's until my mom started to come down with it years ago," he said. "I mean, I had heard about it, but I didn't know anyone who had it."

Nickerson's mother, Patrician Ann Nickerson, lived near Boston and his siblings were her primary caregivers.

"As a World War II veteran, she had benefits with the Veteran's Administration out there and we worked to get her into the center once the disease was well on its way," he said. "But while she was still at home, my brother and sister adjusted their lives so they could to take care of her on a 24-hour basis."

Nickerson offered to move back to help them, but they decided it would be OK if he went back periodically and gave them a break.

"So, the reason why I started getting involved with End Alzheimer's walks was because I was frustrated being so far away and I couldn't do much of anything," he said.

He discovered his first walk just before his mother passed away.

"I found a web page about a walk in Salt Lake City and signed up," Nickerson said. "It was something I could do to eliminate my guilty feelings of not being able to help my brother and sister. It was also something I could do to help other people who are going through the same thing they are going through."

He had only a week and a half to raise money for that walk and reached out to friends and family members for donations and pledges.

"I ended up raising about $700," he said. "But then I wondered why there wasn't a walk in Park City."

After asking the right people, Nickerson was put in charge of creating a Park City walk, and while there has been a Summit County walk, this is the first Wasatch Back Park City walk.

"That's how I got involved as a walk chairman," he said. "And, by the way, Mayor Jack Thomas is the honorary chair."

Nickerson formed a walk committee in early March.

"It's interesting, because just as my mom started showing symptoms of Alzheimer's, we probably discovered three out of 10 people had some kind of contact with the disease," he said. "As I got more involved and formed the walk committee, I found nine out of 10 people had personal experience with Alzheimer's.

"One of the things you can argue is in the past people weren't able to qualify whether or not someone had Alzheimer's," Nickerson said. "Now, I feel if you could take what we know today and went back 20 years, we would categorize a lot more people with the disease."

A portion of the money raised during these End Alzheimer's walks stays within the local communities to fund programs that support primary caregivers.

"They are the ones who need most of the support, in my mind, they are the ones who are doing a lot of the work," Nickerson said.

The remaining portions go towards Alzheimer's care and research.

"The goal for this walk as stated on the website is $40,000, and within that there are sponsor, team and individual goals," Nickerson said. "We actually hope we surpass and bury that $40,000.

"Although we're not quite where we want to be as far as the number of teams have signed up and we know more individuals will sign up closer to the event," he said. "We hope people will come out and have a good time raising money for a good cause."

The first Wasatch Back Park City Walk to End Alzheimer's will be held at Newpark plaza on Saturday, Aug. 27, at 10 a.m. For more information or to register, visit alz.org.