Three hundred students and community members say ‘Enough is enough’

Regan Driscoll

Equinox Staff


Students and community members gathered Saturday morning outside the L.P. Young Student Center for the Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s in an effort to raise money and awareness for the disease, as well as a come together of those who have been affected by it.

A crowd of purple t-shirts filled Appian Way visiting sponsors, petting miniature ponies, and carrying around different colored flowers.  About 300 people attended the event this year said Sinead O’Mahony, volunteer and logistics coordinator for the past six years.

Will Reiter, Vice President for the Massachusetts/New Hampshire, chapter described what makes this walk so successful and stated, “I think one of the great things of the Keene walk is that it’s in the heart of the town. It’s a vibrant university. There are a lot of young people that are involved which is so important and then it goes off and walks through the town so that everybody that’s driving through on that day sees.”

O’Mahony noted how “Keene students have been phenomenal and they come back year after year.”

The event began with a Zumba demonstration, which helped to get the blood flowing for walkers, according to O’Mahony.

She said they try to choose something every year that helps get walkers stretching and moving around before they begin.

During the introductions Reiter stated, “The time is now to make a difference with this disease.”  Speeches discussed how everyone is affected differently by various sharing stories, but how everyone is still united in helping make a difference.  Participants held a specific colored flower depending on their connection to the disease.  Yellow signified caregivers, purple represented those who lost someone to Alzheimer’s, blue flowers were for victims, and orange was for advocates.

Together these flowers formed The Promise Garden, which according to the Alzheimer’s Association website symbolizes, “making a commitment to fulfill their promise to remember, to honor, to care and to fight Alzheimer’s disease.”  Many wrote personal messages on the petals of the flowers, such as names of loved ones who have passed.

The Walk to End Alzheimer’s allows people to share their stories and their experiences with those who have gone through similar struggles.

According to Reiter, support for not only victims, but also their families and caregivers as well is extremely important. The association provides opportunities “to hear with others what’s happening and hear that it’s possible to get the help they need and make it through the next day and the next day and the next day.”

Reiter’s grandmother developed dementia in 1985 and he said, “Now we know a lot more about the disease and how important it is to care for the person not only in terms of their medical care but their emotional care and family involvement, so there’s a lot of good things happening today in terms of providing support and help.“

He continued saying he knows it’s made a difference for him to meet with families and help them see them light and not just the dark and  “just enjoying things day to day and when you can let go of that grief and loss and just enjoy the moment.”

A woman attended the event for the first time after losing her husband 14 months ago after his diagnosis in 2008, already in the mid stage.  She began going to a support group after he died and she said it made a huge difference for her knowing other people have gone through this too.

This event she said was great for her and she plans on returning next year.

Participants included more than just those personally affected by the disease.

Sorority members, Kristen Jackson and Maddie Rosa carried orange flowers during the walk and said, “We all got really emotional during the whole thing.  It’s awful to think that people are losing their memory, forgetting things, and can’t remember people.  It’s really sad.”

They continued to talk about the tragedy other people’s stories were who have lost or are currently losing loved ones and added, “One woman was 54 when she got it and that’s my mom’s age, I can’t even imagine.”

Miraya Young, Mrs. Cheshire County, attended the walk and while looking over the Promise Garden talked about her experience working for a nursing home.

She said she was there to support them, the ones she’s lost and the ones whom she still works with because they taught her, “to cherish the memories that you have with people because you never know when you’re going to lose them.” Young mentioned several of her patients and expressed how, “they (her patients) sort of become your family after a while.”

Speaking strongly for the cause O’Mahony said, “Enough is enough,” and stated she hopes by the time the younger generation reaches older age there won’t be a walk because a cure will have been found.  She worked at Bentley Commons for seven months with Alzheimer’s patients and talked about how she met some amazing people, loved ones and those with the disease.

Regarding her experiences she said, “Alzheimer’s is such a devastating disease that I don’t want to see my parents have to go through anything like what I’ve seen people go through.”

Concerning the walk itself O’Mahony expressed, “I think it’s such an almost uplifting experience for those who have had a loved one pass or, as a caregiver, have seen what others have gone through.  It’s a community; it’s not just a fundraiser.”


Regan Driscoll can be contacted at        


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