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The Time is Now, Alzheimer's Can't Wait

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by Alzheimer's Association
Every year millions of Americans take to the streets to participate in local Walk to End Alzheimer's® events. In 2012, the Greater Illinois Chapter will host 17 Walks throughout our 68-county service area. Click here to register.

"We know that every 68 seconds someone in America develops Alzheimer's disease," said Doug Adolph, director of combined events for the Alzheimer's Association, Greater Illinois Chapter. "Since 1989, the Alzheimer's Association mobilized millions of Americans through Memory Walk®; now the Alzheimer's Association is continuing to lead the way with Walk to End Alzheimer's. Walk participants will be able to learn more about Alzheimer's disease, advocacy opportunities, clinical trial enrollment, and support programs and services. Each walker will also join in a meaningful tribute ceremony to honor those affected by Alzheimer's disease. We need your help, sign up today!"

There are many varied reasons why people participate in Walk to End Alzheimer's. Many walk for a loved one who is facing Alzheimer's disease, some walk to remember and honor a loved one who has lost their battle with Alzheimer's, while others walk to help find a cure for the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Register now to be a part of the Walk to End Alzheimer's. Here are five moving stories from walkers in the Greater Illinois Chapter about why they walk.

Gary Love, Rockford Walk to End Alzheimer's
My name is Gary Love and I lost my mother, Emily, to Alzheimer's disease about 12 years ago. Unfortunately, my mom was only 56 when she passed away. Since that time, my family and I have supported the Alzheimer's Association in Rockford by participating each year in the Walk to End Alzheimer's. Our goal is to help an organization in our local community that is making a difference in the lives of those affected by this insidious disease. My family and I are committed to helping the Alzheimer's Association sustain not only the people dealing with Alzheimer's disease here, but also in finding a cure so that there will be a world without Alzheimer's some day soon. I wish you could have met my mother; she was a delightful person who loved God, life and her family. If there was a cure for Alzheimer's she would still be sharing her love and wisdom with our family and community today. I recognize firsthand how catastrophic the effects of this disease are on families and communities and hope you will join with my family to help end Alzheimer's disease.

Emilie Gill, Bloomington Walk to End Alzheimer's
As a proud member of Epsilon Sigma Alpha (ESA) at Illinois State University, I am thrilled to say that we have chosen to participate in the Walk to End Alzheimer's in Bloomington. ESA is an international service sorority that has participated in community service projects since 1929. It is sometimes difficult to choose which organizations to fundraise for, but we feel that this is a very important cause which has a profound impact on our country and our future.

When I presented the idea of the Walk to End Alzheimer's to the executive board of our ESA chapter, it stood out to them that the number of deaths caused by Alzheimer's disease in the United States has increased 66 percent between 2000 and 2008, and the number of residents age 65 and older with Alzheimer's disease in Illinois will rise from 210,000 residents in 2010 to 220,000 residents in 2020. Without further thought, we knew this cause deserves our immediate help.

Each of us in ESA has a strong passion for helping others, and every one of us is walking for a reason of our own. Whether it is because someone they know has Alzheimer's or just because it is one more way ESA can help the community, we are all dedicated to this event.

I personally walk because my grandmother has been diagnosed with early stages of Alzheimer's disease, and my aunt has begun caregiving for her. It breaks my heart to know they are struggling with this every day. Because of this, I chose to intern at the Alzheimer's Association, Greater Illinois Chapter. I strive to fundraise as much as I can, and to do anything in my power to not only help my grandmother, but also to help the estimated 5.4 million other people in our country living with Alzheimer's disease.

I am looking forward to walking with the powerful organization of ESA. With hundreds of dedicated young women in our ESA chapter alone, we have been very successful in making a difference in a wide range of causes. We are excited and ready to take on the Walk to End Alzheimer's as our next project together.

Linda Hanback, Naperville Walk to End Alzheimer's
I wanted to send you a note and tell you and the Alzheimer's Association just how much the walk means to my family. HOJO stands for Howard Johnson, my dad. We named our team Team HOJO. He had a spouse of 60 years, 4 kids, 10 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren. And when you add the spouses, we are 32 family members.

My Dad had Alzheimer's disease that had been diagnosed 5 years ago, and how long before that? We don't know. At the beginning of 2011, it became evident that he needed to be moved to a memory care center. My mom had been his caregiver for those years and she was tired. When we found out about the walk last May, we decided to register as a team and walk in his honor. In all honesty, we truly didn't care about how much money we would raise. It was more about bonding as a family and honoring my dad.

He had really deteriorated this past summer, he lost his ability to use silverware, his vocabulary was limited and, by August, he could not even walk safely any longer. On September 18, he quit eating and began to withdraw into himself. We know he could hear us, feel us and be comforted by our presence. The hospice nurses told us that he probably would not rally and that he did not have long on this Earth. My mom was strong in her resolve that we would still walk. All his family who had been planning to come for the Walk came to the area from Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Alabama. Everyone visited dad, loved on him and said their goodbyes. But still he hung on, all week long. Sunday morning came and he was still with us. He was weak but hit vital signs were okay. My brother and his wife sat with him by his bed and the rest of Team HOJO put on our T-shirts and met at the Naperville Riverwalk. The kids carried our Team HOJO banner, and we chanted HOJO, HOJO, HOJO as we walked. There were 29 of us - my mom is 81 years old and the youngest great granddaughter is 1. She sat in her stroller. It was the most beautiful experience.

After the walk several carloads of family drove down to the memory care facility and told him we had finished. Several granddaughters had not seen him yet or said goodbye, which they did. The various families went back home to work and school and only my mom, myself, my husband and my three brothers sat by his side. We shared memories, prayed and sang every hymn and song we could think of. We watched the sun set out his window over the bean fields. It was a gorgeous sunset. The sun was brilliant, red and perfectly round. It dropped below the clouds, touched the horizon and seemed to stop. And about an hour after the sun had set, my dad peacefully and calmly took his last breath with his family by his side.

And Team HOJO participated in the Walk to End Alzheimer's in his honor and not in his memory. God is so good and we are so blessed as a family.

Pam Holmes, Lake County Walk to End Alzheimer's

Last year I participated in the Walk to End Alzheimer's in honor of my dad, This year I will walk in his memory.

There wasn't anything my dad wasn't capable of doing. He started his own automotive business in 1954 in Morton Grove. His real passion was woodworking, especially with oak. He could build and make anything. Three and a half years ago, my mom and our family made the heart wrenching decision to place him in a nursing home.

I would see him every two weeks, and the continual decline was heartbreaking. At first, he could recall our names and he was mobile, but as the disease progressed, he lost his mobility along with performing daily activities you and I take for granted. Although our names were never heard from him again, his wink and smile indicated to u, that he knew we were his. Toward the end, he lost his ability to swallow.

When we reached him, he was so weak and unresponsive, but when I said to him, as I always did "Hey dad," he semi opened his eyes, and managed a smile. That was the last time.

I am walking to raise not only funds, but to raise awareness, so hopefully we can spare other families from their own difficult memories.

Lisa Moran , Decatur Walk to End Alzheimer's

The Walk to End Alzheimer's is important to me because it is my way of actively participating in finding a cure for this disease. My dad is in the late stages of Alzheimer's - I do this to honor him, and to protect my children and grandchildren from ever having to worry or wonder "is this Alzheimer's?" A friend and I started the Walk in our town four years ago and it has meant so much to see how our community has embraced the event, and welcomed the opportunity to get involved. It's empowering, it gives us hope, and it lets us know we are not alone.

These are just five of the millions of stories echoed throughout the nation. Please join us and help the more than 5.4 million people in the United States who are battling Alzheimer's disease. This number will jump exponentially in the next 20 years with the aging of the Baby Boomers if nothing is done. The time is now, Alzheimer's can't wait.

Click here and share your walk story with us.

Date added: 08/01/2012

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