COVID-19 pandemic can’t stop the Wasatch Back Walk to End Alzheimer’s
If a coronavirus pandemic can’t stop Alzheimer’s disease, it won’t stop Alzheimer’s Association Utah’s annual Park City Wasatch Back Walk to End Alzheimer’s on Aug. 22, said
Ronnie Daniel, the organization’s executive director.
“The Walk to End Alzheimer’s will certainly happen this fall, but because of social distancing restrictions we won’t be gathering in large groups like we normally do,” Daniel said. “So the walk will be everywhere — your own street, your neighborhood, your favorite trail up in Summit County. We’ve made it possible so everyone can get involved in the walk.”
Free registration is now open at alz.org/walk.
“Past participants can renew themselves or teams, and first-time registrants can sign up a new team,” Daniel said. “While there is no cost to sign up a team, we do encourage people to fundraise. When they sign up, they will be connected to a participants’ site that gives them ideas of how to fundraise and how to set up a social-media campaign.”
The goal for this year’s walk is to raise $187,000, which will help fund research of Alzheimer’s disease, and keep support programs for patients and caregivers running, he said.
“Last year we raised just under $170,000, so we’re trying to top that,” Daniel said.
An estimated 34,000 people are living with Alzheimer’s in Utah, and there are more than 159,000 caregivers, he said.
Caregivers, according to Daniel, are usually family members.
“Typically women are twice as likely to have the disease, and 75 percent of the caregivers are women,” Daniel said. “Sadly, 36 percent of all caregivers end up dying before the people they care for.”
Caregivers’ deaths are attributed to the stress of caring for their family members, he said.
“It’s also because these caregivers are so focused on caregiving that they don’t pay attention to their own health,” Daniel said. “So this fundraiser is also a platform to raise awareness of the resources available for the caregivers.”
To enhance the participant experience leading up to walk day, new features are being added to the Walk to End Alzheimer’s mobile app, which can be downloaded upon registration, according to Daniel.
“We will host our opening ceremonies via virtual ‘mainstage’ in the walk app,” he said. “Participants can also interact with our resources and sponsors, like they do when they walk around and stop at the different booths at our normal event.”
In addition, the Walk to End Alzheimer’s will set up two drive-by promise garden locations, Daniel said.
One will be at Kimball Junction and the other will be in Heber, which will also host a walk, he said.
“Promise Gardens are all about helping identify the reasons why people walk, and those reasons are signified by four different colors of pinwheel flowers,” he said.
Yellow flowers represent people who are caring for someone living with Alzheimer’s or another dementia.
Orange flowers represent people who are generally supporting the cause.
Blue represents someone who is currently living with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Purple represents someone who has died because of the disease.
“We also have another special white flower that represents the hope of a first Alzheimer’s disease survivor,” Daniel said. “During our opening ceremony, everyone will raise their flower and connect with the reason why Alzheimer’s is such a dramatic and tragic part of our lives. This tends to be a touching engagement.”
The walk app will also allow participants to track their steps and distances and even follow a virtual walk path, he said.
“It will also feature an audio track that encourages participants along the way, and congratulates them after they complete their walks,” he said.
This year’s new format has the potential to boost participation, Daniel said.
“We pivoted all of our support groups, education and other engagements to a virtual platform,” he said. “And we’ve found people who may normally not have gotten to engage with us, because they couldn’t leave a loved one at home to join a support group, are able to participate. So we think more people will be able to do the walk with us.”
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