The Hudson Valley Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association held their first walk at Benedict Farm Park in Montgomery, though they have been holding walks for years, and at the start of the event had already raised approximately 80 percent of their $85,000 goal.
“Funds raised allow us to provide programs and services without any financial burden to them,” explained President, David Sobel. “We are focused on finding the cause and cure for Alzheimer’s but at the same time giving people help in their time of need.”
Teams of walkers, some in coordinating shirts with photos and messages for loved ones, gather in small groups. Some enjoy the provided refreshments while others personalize the nylon flowers designated with specific colors and meaning that they will carry during the walk then plant in the Promise Garden. National sponsor, Edward Jones Investments had representatives on site as well as fundraising champions, Wallkill East Rotary with rotary clubs from Liberty, Monticello, and Port Jervis.
“One thing that’s a little different is we will happily accept donations post-event and up through December 31,” said Sobel. “With about 300 walkers registered, we are having a rolling start to keep everyone safe (due to Covid) and avoid crowding.”
“I’m walking for a classmate, Maggie Harding, who passed away and had early Alzheimer’s, “Co-Chair Lance Salisbury shared, “my Uncle Jeff who is suffering from vascular dementia, and Ken Wojehowski, a family friend who is currently battling the disease.”
Kathy Willis, Co-Chair, wore her festive purple boots to take a step in the right direction and stomp out Alzheimers. She is walking for the 8th year and explained her parents fought a 15 year battle between the two of them against the disease.
“For me, the opening ceremony is very meaningful,” said Kellee Thelman, Walk Manager. “When the attendees raise their colored flowers and can look around and see how many people share the experience they are going through, and know that they are not alone, as well as when they plant them in the Promise Garden, those moments are very touching.”
The opening ceremony also included Sobel raising a white flower, the flower of hope, that a cure can be found and no further walks or research would be necessary. Walkers were invited to start the course at anytime and take as many laps as they wanted before the event ended.
Kathy Meachum walked with the assistance of her walker in honor of her sister, Maureen Barber, who is currently battling Alzheimer’s disease. Meachum triumphantly raised her arm and victory and cried out, “I did it,” as she crossed the finish line before bursting into tears.
Gregg Kroner, a 40 year Rotarian and a member of the Gold Sponsors of the event, along with Sal Lucido shared this was their first walk and they lead the way in fundraising.
Elite Grand Champion fundraisers Laura Martino and Baby Ramachandran each raised approximately $3,000. Martino shared she walks in memory of her Nana, Grandma and Angela Cope.
“This is my first time on the committee, and I’d like to let people know, anything helps if you are thinking of volunteering and have concerns about the amount of time you can contribute. If you have 1 hour, 1 day, or more, it helps and raises awareness,” shared Martino.
Ramachandran said, “I just like helping people. I am a volunteer for many organizations and causes and want to help.”
As the day went on, the number of flowers planted in the Promise Garden increased - a reminder of all of those impacted by this challenging and incurable disease. Donations are being accepted for this year’s walk through December 31 and can be made at alz.org/hudsonvalley.