Thoughts on the Walk to End Alzheimer's.

by - Monday, October 01, 2012

Last Saturday, we woke up at the crack of dawn (seriously WAY too early) to take the train to San Francisco and participate in the Walk to End Alzheimers. I learned about the walk while I was researching charities for our dollar dance, and I thought it might be a cool first goal in our marriage. As I said in an earlier post, The Boy's grandpa passed away last year after suffering from Alzheimers for years, and after experiencing it firsthand, I truly think it is one of the hardest diseases for everyone involved. Alzheimer's has also increased statistically much more than population growth, so it is definitely worth people's attention.

So anyway, we got on the train and headed in. Both Mom and The Boy slept on the train on the way there. 

I've done a number of these sort of fundraiser things, but I think have done Relay for Life the most (3 or 4 times). We seriously had no idea what to expect- we knew that the whole thing didn't last that long, about an hour, and the walk was 3 miles long with a 1 and a half mile shortcut. 

First, the walk to the Mission Creek Park was short and easy, and you could hear the music as you got close. The whole event was huge, there had to be hundreds of people walking, but everything was well-organized so it went quickly and we never got cramped. 

One of the neatest things they did was give everyone participating the chance to carry these flower fans. They had 4 different colors representing your reasons for walking (Orange is you know someone with it, Yellow is you are concerned in general, etc). We all got purple flowers in honor of Grandpa Shiley. It seemed like a little thing, but I teared up while The Boy made his:

How sweet is that!? It was nice to be able to visually represent our motivations (and remember in that way. 

The welcome area also had some play stuff for kids, t-shirts, and a stage that had a band and speakers. They also had an area where Elderly homes and Bay Area Alzheimer services could hand out swag and schlep for themselves. My Mom goes to lots of conferences, so she feels pretty guilt-free about collecting swag. The humor in all of this is that we collected all of this stuff, and then we had to carry it all in the walk! Still, I guess this kind of thing is necessary, and it might even be helpful if you are going through it at the time. 

More Swag tables. Once you get walking, people mostly stick to their groups. We saw whole families walking in honor or memory of a family member, all wearing shirts with their faces on it and that sort of thing. This is a neat one to do as a group (as opposed to Relay) because everyone was there at the same time. The group meeting area was huge, and some people couldn't even walk, but they were there to support their team. 

Blue flowers signified that they were people with Alzheimers, so it was always heartwrenching to see them kind of grouped together. It's an interesting event, because it is a (lightly) athletic event motivated by elderly people. I think Alzheimer's can be more easily ignored because it primarily affects the elderly, but at something like this you can see how powerful and important these people are. That seems significant to me in a way I can't yet articulate, but it is such a different kind of tragedy than other things that get this kind of attention. 

Then we got all lined up, and suddenly it became very clear just how many people were participating. The tone of the whole thing was very positive. I saw people get choked up, but there was no weeping. People were happy to be there and shockingly enthusiastic for how early it was. 

And we're off! I love all of the flowers in this picture.It was so crowded that at first you sort of babystep along, but everyone was friendly and kind to each other.

Trying to give a sense of just how long the line of people was. I think we finished in the top 10% (just walking) but since the walk doubled back, we got to see everyone as we went. 

It was also fun to see how people were spirited for it, coming in costume or having purple boas on. So cute!

The walk took us up around the Embarcadero, and we even walked around AT&T Park.

My Mom was pretty excited about the Physical Therapy sign. It was also a nice event to do with only three people, because we could move through the large groups pretty quickly.

The boat was also honking for us the whole time. The organizers did a great job of having enthusiastic support for their walkers every step of the way. That sort of thing isn't necessary, but I think it makes it more fun. 

I don't know where they do the walks in other cities, but it was a really beautiful place to  walk. It would have been a nice walk just on its own!

They also had a drum band. The whole walk was marked both by cones and volunteers who were happy to be there and generally very enthusiastic. One thing I thought was strange was that they held signs with facts about Alzheimers, but they only had like 3 facts, so you kept reading the same thing over and over!

 They also had a spot  where the groups could take a picture with the Bay Bridge. It is definitely a very walker- centric event, but the focus is primarily fun as opposed to a more solemn thing. I am not sure what that says, but we appreciated it.

They also have lots of people right at the end giving pins and cheering on the walkers. The end feels positive, but also a little anti-climatic, but I think that is how these things go, especially since people kind of trickle in.

Ugh, there was also a group who constantly tried to push to the front and carried a billboardadvertising their business. It had nothing to do with Alzheimers, it was just self-promotion. That just seemed like it was in bad taste. I will not be living in their condos.

Exhausted from the walk. Joking. 3 miles is like a 45 minute walk, so it was perfectly pleasant and quick. It's a good event if you aren't too sporty. 

Victory Jamba Juices! Only in California. But they were pretty good, and we got to feel free to drink them since we had our morning workout!

All in all, it was a great and positive experience that will help end the most depressing disease in the world. It definitely felt like a warm way to celebrate people and fight Alzheimers. They have them EVERYWHERE, they are organized and well-run, and I would highly recommend it.

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  1. Thank you for doing this. You can't know much it means to me.