On Oct. 11, The Alzheimer’s Association kicked off their 14th annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s at the Watson and Tressel Training Site at Youngstown State University.
The Alzheimer’s Association changed their location from Boardman Park the previous year in hopes that this newer and bigger location would bring in more walkers. This also increased the likelihood of Youngstown State University student participation.
Alzheimer’s is a disease that causes the degeneration of a victim’s brain. As sufferers of the disease age, their mental capacities, including memory and motor functions, slowly degrade until the body stops functioning entirely. It is the sixth leading causing of death in the United States, and it is still growing.
The opening ceremony began at 9:30 a.m. after the teams arrived at YSU and registered. The WATTS center was filled with an array of colored shirts worn by participants in honor of family members and friends fighting against the disease. YSU students volunteered for the event, passing out pinwheel flowers, a symbol for Alzheimer awareness.
The ceremony began with Helen Paes, community development coordinator for the Alzheimer’s Association, recognizing the organizations and committee members that made the event possible.
“It’s been really fantastic. I hope that we’ve been able to create better public awareness about Alzheimer’s,” Paes said. “We are going to find a cure for Alzheimer’s with the help of all these people dedicated to this cause today.”
Each year, an honoree family is chosen based on their dedication and support of the Alzheimer’s Association.
This year it was the Jamieson family. This family has shown support since Marybeth Jamieson’s husband Cliff was diagnosed with the disease.
“This is important, and we need people to get out there and make them aware of what’s going on and what people are doing,” Marybeth Jamieson said.
Cliff Jamieson went to Girard High School and graduated in 1974. After graduation, he chose to attend YSU for his bachelor’s degree, which he attained in 1980. From there, he was a teacher and a football coach at Struthers schools.
He met the love of his life and married her in 1991. They later had four children together. In 2008, Jamieson was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and died in May 2013, just one day before his 58th birthday. This was a five-year battle for Cliff and his family.
“It seemed unimaginable to me — that the love of my life would eventually slip away from me,” Marybeth Jamieson said.
Though the family experienced hardships with the terminal disease of a father, friend and loving husband, it didn’t stop them from continuing their support for the association.
Their team, the Alzmighties, gathered family and friends to join them as they walked again this year in honor of their lost loved one. This is their third walk, and they claim that they will continue to walk for years to come.
The event also featured the Promise Garden. The Garden is a token to remind the Walk to End Alzheimer’s participants to keep their promises that they made during the walk by continuing their support and care, and to never back down from fighting Alzheimer’s disease.
Each team was given one of the four colors of the Promise Garden’s pinwheel flowers. Each color tells watchers something about the individual walker and their history with the disease.
The orange pinwheel flowers represented the supporters of the Alzheimer’s cause, blue are for those who are experiencing the disease, yellow represents the caregivers and, finally, the purple for those teams who have lost their loved one.