Annual WALK raises funds for Alzheimer’s research, support

Sep. 16, 2013 @ 10:41 AM

The Smoky Mountain Alzheimer’s WALK is set for next Saturday, Sept. 21 at Pigeon Forge High School.

The WALK, which is an annual fundraising event for Alzheimer’s Tennessee, helps afford the organization money to provide counseling workshops, seminars and support groups for families of people suffering from the dreaded disease.

According to the national Alzhemier’s Association, over five million Americans are afflicted with the dementia-related illness, which is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Alzheimer’s Tennessee is trying to change that through helping fund research of the understudied disease while also serving the caregivers of those affected.

The annual WALK serves not only to raise funds, but to increase awareness of Alzheimer’s and provide a sense of community of those battling the disease.

“The Smoky Mountain community has pulled together for more than 20 years to WALK in support of families facing Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias,” Kay Watson, the group’s director of communications/constituent relations, said.

“(Participants) fundraise for support groups and education plus research. Every step walkers, volunteers and donors take at the Smoky Mountain Alzheimer’s Tennessee WALK makes a world of difference and sends a message of hope.”

Bob Waikel, a long-time Sevier County resident who is caring for his wife, Jan, believes in the group and their efforts.

“Their slogan is, “Here for you,” Waikel said. “They offer all these seminars and caregiver workshops throughout the year, and other than that they’re just available to you.

“If somebody has the least concern about (the possibility of Alzheimer’s) or has a friend or family member that may be having memory problems and so forth, (Alzheimer’s Tennessee) is a source you can call and talk to people that know about it and can explain to you what’s going on and kind of guide you and help you into getting in to see proper doctors and what can be done.”

The Saturday WALK at PFHS begins at 9 a.m. with registration and then continues with live music, food, the Faces of Alzheimer’s Wall, team photos, kids activities and a pet tent. At 10 a.m. the group will conduct opening ceremonies including door prizes and pre-walk contests.

At 11 a.m. the walk will begin. The WALK is symbolic and optional and the distance is approximately 1.5 miles. For more information, contact Watson at 865-544-6288.