Organizers celebrate Smoky Mountain Alzheimer's Tennessee Walk

Dec. 06, 2012 @ 12:04 AM

Vanna White would have been proud.

At lunchtime Tuesday in a RiverStone Resort & Spa meeting room, organizers of the Smoky Mountain Alzheimer's Tennessee Walk turned cards, one by one, to reveal the amount of money raised in this year's walk: $137,000.

It was a lively, funny moment at the emotional event, which was held in appreciation of fundraisers and sponsors. About 60 people gathered at the Pigeon Forge resort.

On Sept. 29, the Smoky Mountain Alzheimer's Tennessee Walk drew 1,200 to Pigeon Forge High School. The event centered on a symbolic stroll of about 1.5 miles and featured music, food and prizes.

Participants raised money in a variety of ways, from selling crafts and produce to organizing auctions and other events. Some fundraising was done by individuals, some by teams representing companies such as Citizens National Bank and Dollywood.

The Smoky Mountain walk is one of five similar events Alzheimer's Tennessee, Inc., organizes each year in the region. Alzheimer's Tennessee delivers support services for families affected by Alzheimer's, provides educational information about the disease, advocates for patients and promotes medical research.

"Our walk offers proof that there are so many people touched by this disease," said Alzheimer's Tennessee executive director Janice Wade-Whitehead

Entertainer James Rogers, honorary chair of the walk, spoke of his father's experience with Alzheimer's. Then Rogers sang "Find the Way," a song he wrote about the disease. Some attendees sang along. Others dabbed their eyes. This year, Rogers retired after a long career at Dollywood.

Kay Watson, director of constituent relations for Alzheimer's Tennessee, handed out prizes to top fundraisers. Then event co-chairs Marlene Burnett and Patrick Baker presented a special honor, a Waterford Crystal pitcher that belonged to Burnett's mother, who had Alzheimer's.

The pitcher represented the first annual Pouring Heart Award, Burnett said. She presented it to volunteer Barbara Joines, vice president emeritus of Dollywood.

"So many of us have had this long walk with Alzheimer's," Joines said as she accepted the award. "It's not one you choose."

kburns@themountainpress.com