Keene residents walked all over the Monadnock region on Saturday, September 26, with a determined goal to end Alzheimer’s disease.
The city of Keene once again hosted its Walk to End Alzheimer’s event, only this time, amid the pandemic, participants were given the opportunity to walk wherever they wanted in small groups. The event was hosted to bring awareness to Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia and also to raise money for a cure. Chair of the Western New Hampshire Alzheimer’s Association and financial advisor at Edward Jones Rob Colbert said that one in three Americans die from Alzheimer’s or some form of dementia.
“We want to raise money for research for a cure,” Colbert said. “We also want to raise money to offer support for caregivers of those affected by Alzheimer’s. Caregivers carry a heavy burden, and more so amid COVID-19.”
Alzheimer’s Disease is a type of dementia that affects memory, thinking and behavior. According to the Alzheimer’s Association website, the majority of people with Alzheimer’s are 65 and older and symptoms eventually grow severe enough to interfere with daily tasks.
Western New Hampshire Walk Manager Madison Wilkins added that, although not directly correlated, elderly are also at higher risk for COVID-19.
“They’re impacted by Alzheimer’s and dementia but they’re also at risk for COVID-19,” Wilkins said. “The population is vulnerable in two senses so it was important that we put on this event for them and their families.”
Colbert added that he thinks the Walk to End Alzheimer’s event was more important now than ever.
“The isolation caused by COVID made it difficult on those afflicted with the disease but also the caretakers too,” Colbert said. “Caretakers are normally loved ones that have seen no relief. We want to try to relieve the burden on caretakers and those afflicted.”
Keene Mayor George Hansel, the event’s Master of Ceremonies, said that every year more and more individuals are affected by Alzheimer’s disease and the event is a great way to raise awareness and money for a good cause.
“It’s a great way to give back and give for a cure,” Hansel said. “This year’s event is as important as any other year. The organization worked very hard to put this together.”
According to Wilkins, transforming the event to accommodate for the pandemic was not easy. She added that it was difficult to get participants to convert to a more virtual setting.
“We pivoted all our programs and resources to virtual. We encouraged Facebook sharing to promote awareness and walking teams hosted virtual fundraisers to raise money,” Wilkins said.
Colbert added that the committee’s goal was to be able to host the walk while also maintaining the safety of its participants.
“I’m very proud of the committees,” Colbert said. “As COVID played out, our plan changed drastically, but at no time did we ever think of canceling the event.”
Colbert said that this year’s approach to the event was befitting of all lifestyles and schedules.
“People can walk or run anywhere,” Colbert said. “They can hike Monadnock or run on a treadmill.”
Another aspect of the event was the Promise Garden where Wilkins and three other volunteers planted flowers on Wyman Way in Keene. According to Wilkins, the flowers planted consisted of four colors with each color symbolizing something different. Yellow flowers were planted for caregivers, orange flowers were planted for advocates, purple flowers were planted for someone who has lost a loved one affected by Alzhemier’s or dementia and blue flowers were planted for those living with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
According to Wilkins, 286 participants registered for the event out of a goal of 500 and 52 teams registered out of a goal of 55. Wilkins added that around $40,000 was raised for the event out of a $89,750 goal. The committee will be accepting donations and funds through December 31.
Hunter Oberst can be contacted at: