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Walk to End Alzheimer’s takes a different path amid pandemic

This quilt made by Lura Wilcoxen, left, was raffled off to raise funds for the Alzheimer’s Association during the Walk to End Alzheimer’s Event Saturday. She stands with Pat Hedrick, a volunteer for the event who lost her husband to the disease in 2014. (Photo Provided)

WILLIAMSTOWN — Although this year’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s event was different from previous years, those who participated were able to spread awareness and offer support to those who are affected by the disease.

Mary Corra and Virginia Peterson are sisters who work to raise funds for Alzheimer’s research since their mother died from the disease in 2012. For the past few years, Corra said her teams have raised thousands of dollars and this year, they raised around $1,000.

The money raised at these events goes toward research nationwide but what’s raised locally goes toward the research conducted at West Virginia University, Peterson said.

Earlier this year, the WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute released information about its clinical trial, which is a first-in-the world study that shows potential progress in fighting the disease.

“The ability to non-invasively and reversibly open the blood brain barrier in deep brain areas such as the hippocampus, offers a new potential in developing treatments for Alzheimer’s disease,” Dr. Ali Rezai, executive chair for WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute said in a press release.

Tammie Johnson, co-chair for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s event, and her mother, Pat Hedrick, stopped at the Promise Garden in Williamstown before they walked in Saturday’s event in memory of Steve Hedrick, Pat’s husband and Tammie’s father. “We also walk so my grandchildren and great niece and nephew will know a world without Alzheimer’s,” Johnson said. (Photo Provided)

With this research and findings all over the world, Peterson said she hopes they continue to move in the right direction.

She hopes that “within the next decade, they’re going to have a way of slowing it down, hopefully stopping it (or) finding a way of reversing it,” she said.

Another major goal of the event is to share the resources and support available to those who suffer from the disease or close family and friends of someone who has been diagnosed.

Corra and Peterson said when their mom was first diagnosed, they knew nothing about the disease. Now an 800 number is available 24/7 (800-272-3900) and is manned at all times to offer support or answer questions.

Tammie Johnson, co-chair for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s Event, said although the event was different this year — participants who wished to walk were able to do so at a location of their choosing — she feels they were still able to raise awareness and educate about those available resources.

“I think we definitely build awareness. It was challenging fundraising. It’s different this year because we haven’t been able to have our typical fundraisers (but) we have used social media and regular media to draw attention to the services that the (organization) provides,” she said. “Those have changed some too. Before we had support groups in person, now those are virtual. We’re still providing those much needed services.”

This year’s goal was to raise $79,000 but despite COVID-19 changes, the group was still able to raise around $30,000, Johnson said.

“While fundraising is important, it’s more important for people to understand the services that are provided,” she said.

In another effort to raise funds, a quilt handmade by Lura Wilcoxen, committee member, was given away through a raffle that raised $600.

“She walks in honor of family members who have been impacted,” Johnson said.

For the community, Johnson hopes folks can develop an understanding of the illness and its impact on family members and loved ones.

“I do want people to understand it does impact people within our area. A lot of times when people get that diagnosis, they don’t want to talk about it because there is not a cure. We want people to know those services and resources are available,” she said.

Candice Black can be reached at cblack@newsandsentinel.com.

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