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Walkers raise money at Alzheimer's event

October 20, 2003|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

As they approached the end of their third lap around the main loop of Hagerstown Community College Sunday, Mary Lou Edmands and Pat Saunders raced along with other friends in an attempt to finish first at the Alzheimer's Association's Memory Walk.

"They said there was a car if we finished first. So, where's our car?" Edmands joked. "Do you have the keys?"

Those women, with the Hagerstown-based weight-loss support group TOPS, were among many who said they enjoyed the cool, sunny weather and the lighthearted atmosphere at the 10th annual event.

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Walkers had the option of looping around a marked trail across the college campus or circling the indoor track within the Athletic Recreation and Community Center, the college's athletic facility. This year's event drew 196 walkers and raised more than $31,500 for Alzheimer's research, according to association spokeswoman Mary Ellen Mitchell.

Mitchell and Alzheimer's Association Regional Director Joyce Heptner said this year's event drew participants from a wide age range, including a toddler, students and an 87-year-old woman.

"It draws from quite a few segments of the population in Hagerstown and Washington County," Mitchell said. "And for the first time, we have a team from the (Hagerstown Community) college."

The students were one of several teams walking in Sunday's event. Among those teams was a group from Reeders Memorial Home. Tracy Moser, director of marketing and admissions at Reeders, was one of a dozen people from the local business walking Sunday.

"We take this very seriously because we have an Alzheimer's unit," Moser said. "We know the association is very important for research. Plus, we enjoy it because it's good exercise."

Moser said the business raised approximately $2,500 for the association in 2003 through drives including dress-down days, and sales of T-shirts, food products like apple dumplings and various crafts.

The Memory Walk was created in 1989 and has been adopted by communities throughout the United States, according to information provided by the Alzheimer's Association. More than $120 million has been raised by the event since its inception, the association says.

Sunday's was the ninth of 10 Memory Walk events in Maryland this year.

Approximately 2,600 people in Washington County suffer from Alzheimer's disease, an irreversible brain disorder that causes severe memory loss, confusion, personality/behavior changes and disorientation. The disease affects more than four million people nationally, the association says.

Mitchell said money is raised through corporate donors, team contributions and by those sponsoring individual walkers, many of whom walked because a family member was affected by the disease.

Boonsboro resident Sherry Finkel, walking for the third time, said her father fought the illness for nearly 12 years.

"It's draining emotionally for families, and it's very real," Finkel said. "You never know when it'll be one of us."

Some said they wanted to support an important cause, though they did not have firsthand experience.

"It's a beautiful day and I'm glad to be part of a strong effort," said Greg Larsen, business development manager at Hagerstown Regional Airport. "I think this is something that affects all families sooner or later."

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