Hundreds of people carrying a variety of flowers will walk Saturday to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
The annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s will return as an in-person event Saturday. Attendees will gather at the Gregg County Courthouse beginning at 8 a.m. The opening ceremony is scheduled for 9 a.m., and the walk will begin between 9:15 and 9:30 a.m.
“The most important thing about this walk is it allows for our community to come together, especially when we’ve been through a year and a half of isolation,” said Jennifer Bowring, director of development for the Alzheimer’s Association. “A lot of it is our caregivers. This has been a very lonely year and a half. To come together as a community and see there are others experiencing the same journey as them, it really gives people hope.”
The Walk to End Alzheimer’s raises funds that support education efforts and support for families with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, as well as help support research to find a cure for the disease. Alzheimer’s disease is growing more prevalent, Bowring said. She noted that one in three people are expected to become afflicted by the disease and that it impacts more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.
“We need to get the education out there because the growth of the disease is become more prevalent,” she said. “It’s becoming a crisis.”
Last year, the Walk to End Alzheimer’s was held virtually amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Participants were invited to walk wherever they were, Bowring said.
This year, the walk will be held in person with safety protocols in place, she explained. Those protocols include contactless registration. Participants are asked to register prior to attending Saturday. That includes registering children who may be walking with parents, she noted.
If people attend who have not pre-registered, Bowring said volunteers will have a QR code they can scan to register on their personal device.
T-shirts, medals and other items will be mailed to participants this year, she said. Sanitation stations, gloves and face masks will be available. People will be asked to social distance 6 feet apart, and there will not be a designated race start, she noted. Instead, people are asked to begin walking whenever they choose to help promote social distancing.
KETK meteorologist Marcus Bagwell will serve as the event’s emcee. Longview High School students will sing the National Anthem, and Scouts from Boy Scout Troop 613 will raise the flag at the courthouse. Local pilates instructor Annabeth Baker will lead a warmup to the walk.
“This event could not have happened without a committee,” Bowring said. “We thank the local volunteers who have helped us with the committee.”
About 200 people are expected to attend, she said. Bowring noted that dogs are welcome if they are on a leash and that people also can bring strollers.
Those who attend will carry flowers with a variety of meaning as they walk. Orange flowers mean a person is supporting the cause. Yellow flowers represent those who are caregivers to someone with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. Blue flowers signify those participants who have Alzheimer’s disease. Purple flowers mean a person lost someone to the disease.
“It’s beautiful; the morning of the walk is gorgeous because of all the colors of the flowers,” Bowring said. “Everybody carrying them really understands the meaning, so it is a personal endeavor and mission. We would love to have the community help us find our first white flower, which will represent a survivor of Alzheimer’s disease.”
Those interested can still register to participate by visiting alz.org/walk. Registration is free, but donations are requested to assist the Alzheimer’s Association.