By Joel Hall
The Clayton, Henry, Fayette, South Fulton, Coweta, and Spalding communities will come together this Saturday to help the nearly 200,000 Georgians suffering with Alzheimer's disease. The 10th annual Southern Crescent Memory Walk will take place in Peachtree City.
In its 10-year history, the 5-kilometer walk and "fun run" around Peachtree City's golf cart path system has raised $1.5 million to aid Alzheimer's research, and provide financial assistance to Georgia families dealing with the disease, according walk organizers.
Dan Nelson, public awareness chairman of the 2009 Memory Walk, said the event was founded by Floy Farr, a seminal figure in Peachtree City's history, whose wife, Bruce, passed away, due to Alzheimer's disease.
Farr himself died in 2006 at the age of 94, but the event has continued and grown, Nelson said.
"He [Farr] was co-founder of Peachtree City 50 years ago, and he was the former mayor," said Nelson. "He originally founded it [the event] 10 years ago, because his wife was an Alzheimer's patient. Each year, it has gotten a little better. Last year, they raised $200,000.
"The problem of Alzheimer's is that it is usually a family member [who contracts the disease] and it is a family member taking care of them, so they are stuck in the house 24 hours a day," Nelson said. "The disease impacts the victim as much as the caregiver.
"This money that is collected," he said, "goes to the Georgia Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, and they keep the money in Georgia for Alzheimer's research and, not only [as] assistance to patients, but also to caregivers."
Registration for the walk will start on Saturday, at 8 a.m., in the parking lot of the Frederick Brown, Jr., Amphitheater, located at 201 McIntosh Trail. Runners will start the 3.2-mile journey at 9:15 a.m., and walkers will start at 9:30 a.m.
In addition to free registration, participants will be treated to a free continental breakfast before the walk, and the Kiwanis Club of Peachtree City will provide free hot dogs and hamburgers to people after the walk.
Entertainment will be provided before, and after, the walk by the Peachtree Jazz Edition. "The Clowns of New Hope Baptist Church" of Fayetteville will perform face-painting and make balloon animals for children. Various health-care providers and non-profit groups will provide educational information about Alzheimer's disease.
Clayton, Coweta, and Fayette counties were the first ones to participate in the Memory Walk in 2000. Today, the walk involves six counties, each with chairpersons who recruit sponsors, organize teams, and solicit donations.
Carol Dickerson, executive director of Governor's Glen Assisted Living and Memory Impaired Community, serves as the Clayton County co-chairperson. She said the event serves to educate people about the disease, as well as raise money to help those financially impacted by it.
"The prediction is that people are living longer, so this disease is going to be more prevalent," Dickerson said. "People who can't really afford to live in assisted living, they can get some assistance from the Georgia Alzheimer's Association. Right now, they only have drugs that will slow the progression of Alzheimer's. We work so hard to fund research that will actually stop the progression.
"We've done tremendously well in the Southern Crescent," she added. "We've even beat the Atlanta Alzheimer's walk in fund-raising. People bring their dogs, their kids, their grandkids ... it's just a fun experience. Sure, it's to raise money, but it's also a great awareness for people who might not know everything about it."
Stephania Ward, community relations director of Dogwood Forest at the Eagles Landing assisted living community, has served as the Henry County Memory Walk chairperson for the last four years. She said the walk is making a difference locally.
"I have actually dealt with people with Alzheimer's for 15 years on a personal level, and a professional level," she said. "The disease takes over that person's body. If we didn't have the community helping us in raising money for research, there may never be a cure."
For more information about the Southern Crescent Memory Walk, visit www.southernmemorywalk.org.