GREENVILLE — The Alzheimer’s Association held their 2017 Walk to End Alzheimer’s at Greenville City Park Saturday morning.
The Alzheimer’s Association is a national organization that works to educate local, state, and federal legislators about the importance of supporting alzheimer’s-related legislation, according to Vice President of Advocacy and Outreach Jerry Mallicoat. Six chapters exist in Ohio, with Mallicoat’s branch overseeing efforts in Darke, Preble, Montgomery, Greene, and surrounding counties.
“We want to make sure doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals are properly trained in palliative care,” Mallicoat said. Palliative caregivers deal with patients recovering from surgery or serious injury, either at home or in a hospice, hospital, or nursing home setting, as well as with patients struggling with chronic and possibly terminal health issues like Alzheimer’s.
The Walk is one of the group’s biggest fundraising efforts, according to Mallicoat, but it also serves a vital emotional function.
“The Walk is almost like a large support group for people,” Mallicoat said. “Some people who walk are struggling with alzheimer’s, some are caregivers, and some are those who have lost people to the disease.”
The Walk is a happy occasion, according to Mallicoat, despite the terminal disease that inspired it. One of the cornerstones of the event is the Promise Garden ceremony, where sufferers, caregivers, and others who support the group’s mission gather together and hold brightly colored plastic flowers: blue for those with alzheimer’s, yellow for caregivers, and orange for supporters.
“It’s really very emotionally moving,” Mallicoat said. “These people have struggled with alzheimer’s, and really want to find a way to end it.”
One of those leading the struggle is Dorthy Lentz, a Greenville resident whose family has been heavily involved with the Association for years.
“Dorthy is the head honcho,” Mallicoat said. “She oversees volunteers, logistics, fundraising, and everything else for the event.” Lentz’s family are top fundraisers for the Greenville walk, which is the Alzheimer’s Association’s biggest fundraiser in the country.
Lentz’s husband, Edwin, passed away earlier this year after struggling with the disease since 2007.
“We watched him go from this fun-loving, caring individual to being somebody we didn’t know any longer,” Lentz said. “This is a very stressful disease for caregivers.”
As many as one out of nine Darke County residents are estimated to have Alzheimer’s, according to Lentz, and while deaths from other common maladies like heart disease have fallen in recent years, Alzheimer’s deaths have almost doubled. This is the cost of an aging population: people live longer, only to fall prey to the ravages of advancing age.
“That’s why it’s so important to raise funds, and to turn that money into the care and support that this organization gives,” Lentz said. Lentz stressed that 79% of funds raised by the organization go toward research, care, and support, with the remainder going to administrative costs and supporting further fundraising efforts.
“We want people to know that every dollar they donate really counts,” Lentz said. “I know that one day we’ll make progress with this disease. We’ll find that living survivor. That’s what we’re looking for.”
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