By Mrinal Gokhale
The Alzheimer’s Association of Southeastern Wisconsin expects to raise over $820,000 from this year’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s at Summerfest Grounds on Sep. 18.
Almost 3,000 attendees took in the sunny weather, enjoying a two-mile walk from Milwaukee’s lakefront and then back to Summerfest.
Before the walk at 10 a.m., there was a ceremony at the Briggs and Stratton Stage, hosted by Van “The Man” McNeil and CV from B93.3 FM.
The main sponsors included Edward Jones as the national sponsor, Brookdale Senior Living, WE Energies, Capri Senior Communities and others.
CW made a note that Brookdale Senior Living was the first 1 million dollar national team in 2014 and the first 2 million dollar national team in 2015.
The first speaker was Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who arrived on stage wearing the same purple Alzheimer’s Association t-shirt that attendees received for attending.
“I’m sure there are people with family or personal friends with Alzheimer’s, and we’re here to support them and to find a cure for this horrendous disease.
We tried to arrange this day for the best day in autumn, and I think we succeeded,” Barrett said. Next, executive director Tom Hlavacek gave the audience an overview of just how prevalent Alzheimer’s is in both the country and in Milwaukee County.
“In Milwaukee County alone, more than 63,000 people are estimated to have Alzheimer’s today,” Hlavacek said.
“In the United States today, over five million individuals are living with the disease.” He added that over 15 million people in the country were unpaid caregivers for those suffering from Alzheimer’s.
“As prevalence of the disease continues growing, the cost of care is escalating into the millions of dollars. It’s destroying families, our finances and our future,” Hlavacek said. Hlavacek proudly announced that this year’s walk raised over $100,000 more than the walk held last year.
“More than 2,400 registered online and helped raised over $750,000,” Hlavacek said. Hlavacek later brought out the co-chairs of the walk, Thelma Sias and Dave Simbro. It is their second year in a row serving as co-chairs.
Sias took the microphone, and gave her own experience with both family members and friends who have fought Alzheimer’s. “I’m here today in honor of my late aunt, a woman of beauty, grace and talent. I watched her journey through this disease,” Sias said. “I’m here today for my late mother in law who lost her ability to speak in her journey with the disease. I have three close friends whose sisters were diagnosed at 55 with this incredible, difficult disease. I’m here today because I care about families who go through this journey.”
Before taking off, the audience took selfies holding their plastic flowers they received based on how the disease affected them. A purple flower signified a person who lost someone to Alzheimer’s.
Blue signified someone who fought Alzheimer’s, yellow represented a caregiver of someone with Alzheimer’s, and orange was for those who supported the cause behind the walk.
“These flowers are to honor, remember, care and to fight for a cure for Alzheimer’s,” Hlavacek said.
Walkers were encouraged to take selfies for social media with hashtags #ShowOurPurple and #Walk2EndAlz.
Proceeds were in support for the Southeast Wisconsin branch and its research efforts to find a cure for Alzheimer’s.