Walk to End Alzheimer’s brings people together, raises money

BROWNSVILLE — Madeleine Sandefur carried a spinning yellow flower Saturday morning at the Walk to End Alzheimer’s at Texas Southmost College.

“It represents my status as a caregiver,” Sandefur said, explaining that her husband suffers from the disease.

Attendees carried those spinning flowers Saturday morning, representing their relation to Alzheimer’s. Those colors told a story. Orange flowers were carried by those who supported the raising of awareness. People carrying purple flowers lost loved ones to the disease, and folks with blue flowers lived with Alzheimer’s.

But for Sandefur, who is from Zurich, Switzerland, and doesn’t have any family here, the event brought a sense of community.

“Well, it’s sometimes very hard. Something like this makes you feel not alone,” Sandefur said. “There are others dealing with the same thing.”

The walk, which was organized by the Alzheimer’s Association, gives attendees who travel the two-mile trek the chance to learn about the disease, find advocacy opportunities, and learn about clinical study opportunities and support programs and services offered by the association while giving tribute to those who suffer from Alzheimer’s.

Also, the event had plenty of activities for the approximate 500 attendees. There was music and dancing. There were games for the children. And there were plenty of vendor booths that had all sorts of resources.

Edward C. Camarillo, chair of the walk and a caregiver for his mother, said the hundreds of community members attending the event is an example of how people can have a positive impact against the disease.

“It’s real serious, not only from a cost perspective, but to see loved ones with memory loss,” Camarillo said. “They deteriorate very quickly.”

As of Saturday morning, Veronica Gomez, development manager for the Alzheimer’s Association’s San Antonio and South Texas Chapter, said online donations were a little more than $14,100. Gomez said the association’s goal is to raise $30,000.

“We have students come in and give a dollar,” Gomez said, explaining how donations range from a little to a lot.

Gomez said some of the money stays in Cameron County for educational purposes, and the remaining donations are used by the Alzheimer’s Association for research.

One of the most important aspects of the walk, however, is the emphasis on showing people that there are resources available online and in Cameron County. There are support groups, help is available from the Lower Rio Grande Valley Area Agency on Aging, and many medical facilities are now equipped with memory care units, a fact of which she said many people are unaware. But, like Sandefur and Camarillo, Gomez admits the support group aspect of the walk is huge.

“Attending a Walk to End Alzheimer’s event is like attending one giant support group because families, whether going through the disease or have already experienced it, can offer support and hope to each other as well as remind us all that we are not alone in this battle against Alzheimer’s and all dementia related disease,” Gomez said in a press release publicizing the event.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 5 million Americans suffer from the disease, and it is the sixth-leading cause of death in the country. Alzheimer’s cannot be cured, prevented or curbed. And that community in the U.S. has more than 15 million caregivers. In Texas, 360,000 people are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and there are more than 1.3 million caregivers, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.