“Alzheimer’s is not taking a hiatus during COVID-19 and neither are we,” said Alexis Watts, Midlands director of the Alzheimer’s Association, and all over the Columbia area Saturday, people proved her right.

The annual Columbia Walk to End Alzheimer’s raised more than $100,000 Saturday, despite the challenges and changes forced by the pandemic.

Instead of hosting a large gathering, the Alzheimer’s Association encouraged participants to walk as individuals or in small groups on sidewalks, tracks and trails across Columbia.

“This year’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s will be everywhere,” said Wendy Vizek, vice president, constituent events at the Alzheimer’s Association. “The pandemic is changing how we walk, but it doesn’t change the need to walk. This year, more than ever, we need to come together to support all those affected by Alzheimer’s and other dementia. With the dollars raised, the Alzheimer’s Association can continue to provide care and support to families during these difficult times while also advancing critical research toward methods of treatment and prevention.”

Time-honored components of the Walk to End Alzheimer’s still happened, with some changes. An opening ceremony featured local speakers and a presentation of Promise Flowers to honor the personal reasons participants join together to fight Alzheimer’s.

A small group of Alzheimer’s Association staff and volunteers created the iconic Promise Garden in a “view only” format at Segra Park to honor all those impacted by Alzheimer’s.

“We must continue Walk to End Alzheimer’s, and we are working with all participants to ensure they have a powerful and moving experience that is felt when we are together, Watts said. “Many of our constituents are at higher risk when it comes to COVID-19 and we know that our volunteers and participants appreciate our commitment to keeping all involved, healthy and safe.”

More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease – the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. Additionally, more than 16 million family members and friends provide care to people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. In South Carolina, there are more than 95,000 people living with the disease and 318,000 caregivers.

“At 45 years old I was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. After a year of counseling to come to terms with my diagnosis, I was blessed to find my local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association,” said Missy Callahan, Alzheimer’s Association volunteer and support group attendant. “The online resources have been so important to my learning to live again. I am so hopeful that science and research will find a cure for Alzheimer’s. I will walk for myself and those affected by this diagnosis.”

Fundraising for this year’s walk will continue through Dec. 31. More information is available at act.alz.org/columbiawalk.

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