Walk to End Alzheimer’s kickoff party

Michelle Kelman, Alzheimer’s Association senior development specialist, met with volunteers to plan this year’s walk scheduled for late summer.

OTTUMWA — The Walk to End Alzheimer’s may be scheduled for late summer, but residents began planning it Tuesday.

Michelle Kelman, Alzheimer’s Association senior development specialist, met with potential volunteers at the Hub to talk about helping to recruit teams, getting walk materials out in the community and securing sponsorships.

Many residents who did attend said they had friends or family affected by the disease and wanted to honor them by getting involved in the planning process.

Robin Turner and her daughter, Stephanie Gibbs, were among many who watched their loved one affected by the disease. They said it hit close to home for them as Turner’s grandfather had the disease before it took his life. Gibbs’ grandmother also has Alzheimer’s and Turner and Gibbs cared for her for a decade, before she went to a nursing home.

Both said they work on the logistics side of planning, which means they oversee volunteers helping out on the day of the walk. They’ve been doing it for five years and don’t plan to quit.

“I really hope someday that they find a cure,” Turner said. “Now, my mom has it.”

“I want to find a cure for Alzheimer’s,” Gibbs said, “I’ve seen it all and watched it all kind of happen where she’s lost her memory and stuff. I watched her go from my grandma to now. She’s not all there anymore.”

Gibbs said she benefited from the connections at each walk. She loved seeing the different flowers, too. Each flower signifies different connections to the disease. Her grandmother always held a blue flower which signified she had Alzheimer’s.

“Every year I love going and hearing people’s stories,” she said.

Kelman also loved hearing stories. She said it is important to get as many volunteers as possible to help plan and put on a walk. More volunteers can help increase awareness about the disease and lets others know the Alzheimer’s Association’s mission which is to eventually find a cure for Alzheimer’s.

“Currently 5.7 million people across the United States have Alzheimer’s,” Kelman said, “so when we think about our task and the work that we need to do, it’s pretty serious. There’s a lot of people who need our help. Even though this is a really serious disease, there’s still a lot of gifts and a lot of things you can learn when going through the process.”

Kelman also emphasized education. She said there are educational programs, workshops, campaigns, and conferences. Walk Central, Kelman said, is another great tool for helping plan the walk. It is a nation-wide community for people to brainstorm ideas for the walk. There a person can find in-depth information on the logistics, sponsorship, team retention, recruitment, Alzheimer’s Impact Movement (AIM), and marketing and outreach.

“You can also post what you’re doing with your committee and then check in if you have a question,” Mariah Nichols, team retention leader explained.

“With AIM they develop policies to overcome Alzheimer’s disease through research and improved support,” Jenaya Pilcher, AIM leader explained. “So AIM leads the way to advance policies to access to high quality healthcare for individuals living with Alzeheimer’s.”

Kelman also talked about goals for this year’s volunteers and for the walk. She said the association wants to have 37 returning teams and wants to have 28 new teams. She encourages residents to volunteer even if they don’t have a lot of volunteer experience.

“There’s always a place for everyone,” she said, “for someone who thinks they don’t have anything to bring to the table, my guess is they are wrong. Whether they enjoy talking to people or enjoy getting out in the community and sharing information — there’s something. Maybe they like to put up flyers. We have so many opportunities available not only with our walk, but with our association from speaking engagements and support groups. Everybody has something to give and share.”

Chiara Romero can be reached at cromero@ottumwacourier.com.

Chiara Romero can be reached at cromero@ottumwacourier.com.

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