More than 2,000 feet. One mission. A generous community.
Those are the important ingredients that made the 20th annual “A Walk to Remember,” which supports the work of the Alzheimer’s Resource Center, an overwhelming success. That success was celebrated Nov. 1 during the event’s Appreciation and Awards Luncheon hosted by Flowers Hospital.
More than 1,000 people (2,000 feet) turned out to participate in the Oct. 6 walk, which was chaired by the mother-son duo of Shea and Cliff Mendheim. They led the walk in honor of Mrs. Mendheim’s mother, Barbara Gellerstedt Adams.
The walk’s mission each year is two-fold – to bring awareness of the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s disease and to fund the Alzheimer’s Resource Center. This year’s walk topped $88,770, surpassing the goal of $85,000. Donations toward the walk are still be accepted and could push that total even higher.
The second part of the ARC’s mission is to bring awareness and information about a disease that robs its victims of their memories and, eventually, their ability to interact with family and friends. Kay Jones, executive director of the ARC, believes this year’s walk went a long way in alerting the public of the existence of the resource center and the services it provides, but, she notes, more work is needed in getting the message of the ARC out to the community.
“We still have a tremendous task of reaching the public to let the families know we are here,” Ms. Jones said as she addressed the sponsors, walk team leaders and volunteers at Thursday’s luncheon. “Through our local media, I think the community heard us this year.”
The 2012 walk celebrated many firsts.
“Not only was this our 20th walk, but it was the largest we have ever had,” Jones said. “What a wonderful way to remember our 20th walk. We had more walkers (in excess of 1,000), more sponsors (85 compared to 71 last year), more teams (60 compared to 40 last year), and we had 21 first-time sponsors this year. And, we raised more money than ever before. We exceeded our goal, which is tremendous.”
Reaching families is a primary concern for Jones. She feels the success of this walk will enable the ARC to get the word out to families who are caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease.
“Our walk is our annual fund-raising event,” she continued. “It’s the one time of the year that we go to the community to ask for their financial support. That support is so important to us, because we are an independent organization. We don’t receive funding from federal or state sources, and we are not a United Way agency. We depend solely on our community.
“We are so appreciative to the people of the Wiregrass who are hearing our message and realizing how important the walk is to the life of our organization.”
She also noted the success of this year’s walk rests, in great measure, on the efforts of Shea and Cliff Mendheim.
“We owe a heartfelt thank you to Shea and Cliff Mendheim,” Jones said. “They brought us so many walkers and sponsors to the walk. They were just tremendous as walk co-chairs. We can’t thank them enough for their efforts on our behalf.”
This year, 12,123 families contacted the ARC by phone, mail, email, in person or through the agency’s website (www.wesharethecare.org). Just three years ago that number was 4,552. The following year, it grew to 8,536 and reached 11,079 last year. As more individuals and families are made aware of the ARC, Jones expects that number to continue to climb. More importantly, more families will be seeking the information and educational materials available to them through the ARC. The funds raised at the walk make those items available.
“Participating in the walk has made me more aware (of the need),” Mrs. Mendheim said. “I did not realize how many families are touched by the Alzheimer’s Resource Center. Also, I like that the money stays local. There are so many families I know that are touched by Alzheimer’s disease.”
For more information about the Alzheimer’s Resource Center and the services it provides, contact Kay Jones at 702-2273 or 1-888-702-8689, by email to Alzheimer@graceba.net or visit the ARC on Facebook or www.wesharethecare.org.