By Conrad Dudderar
Groups of purple shirt-clad walkers traversed downtown Yukon to raise funds for Alzheimer’s research as part of an effort to rid the world of this terrible disease.
Yukon Main Street hosted “Walk the Route” June 30 along Route 66 in conjunction with the Oklahoma chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association’s “The Longest Day” observance.
The Friday morning community walk followed the Yukon Chamber of Commerce’s weekly Community Coffee next to the “Yukon Sunset” mural, 528 W Main.
The family of Yukon civic leader Ken Wilkins had a booth at Yukon’s Walk the Route to provide refreshments to walkers and share information with event participants.
“We’ve been directly impacted by Alzheimer’s,” Wilkins said. “We lost my mother-in-law Ellen Howard last December to Alzheimer’s after a seven-year battle. We’ve been involved for several years doing walks, not only locally but downtown as well.”
Wilkins, a Yukon Chamber of Commerce board member, owns Archery Traditions of Oklahoma in Old Mill Plaza.
“It’s just a great cause, and the research is really showing some promise,” he added. “Even though we’ve lost mom, we wanted to remember her today by having this aid station and letting people know this is a battle that a lot of families face.”
Alzheimer’s is a brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks.
Some 6.5 million people in the United States ages 65 and older have the disease – with some 67,000 living in Oklahoma. The most common cause of premature senility, Alzheimer’s is caused by a generalized degeneration of the brain.
“It’s one of the many forms of dementia,” Wilkins said. “The biggest issue many families face is that it changes the personality of the person as they digress. And they become someone they weren’t.
“It’s hard for the family. Even though mentally they know that’s not the person, emotionally it takes a toll when you see them doing things or saying things they wouldn’t normally. You kind of see them fading away over time. You’re losing them a little at a time.”
One in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia.
Angelique Morton, a Yukon financial advisor and Main Street volunteer, was event coordinator for Yukon’s Walk the Route.
“A heartfelt thank you to all that donated, participated and served as water stops in the Alzheimer’s walk for Yukon,” Morton said. “Thus far, we have raised $1,500 and all of the proceeds go back to the Alzheimer’s Association.”
Morton was a caretaker for her grandmother, who lived with Alzheimer’s for 11 years.
“There are so many terrible diseases, but Alzheimer’s is a nightmare of continuous anxiety, sadness and confusion,” she said. “As a community, we are stronger and the more awareness we raise I am confident doctors will slow down the progression and hopefully soon find a cure for the disease.”
Water stops for the Yukon Main Street walk were Yukon Veterans Museum, Pro-Grade Flooring and Chisholm Trail Roofing.
BREAKTHROUGHS IN RESEARCH
Walking promotes brain health, Yukon Main Street Director Vicki Davis pointed out.
All funds raised from Yukon’s Walk the Route will directly benefit the Alzheimer’s Association in its research efforts.
“They’ve really had some good breakthroughs recently,” Wilkins pointed out. “If we can help make it easier for families in the future that deal with this, we want to be part of it.”
The association observes The Longest Day each June to recognize the summer solstice as the day with the most sunlight.
“When someone is facing Alzheimer’s – especially the caregivers – those days are so long,” Wilkins said. “People don’t realize how much of a toll it takes on the caregiver. It’s a 24/7 situation.”
More than 11 million people – with 129,000 of them in Oklahoma – are serving as unpaid caregivers.
The Oklahoma chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association had a booth manned by Longest Day Manager Karly McNeill at Yukon’s Walk the Route.
Just before the walk began, McNeill gave a “special shout-out and thank-you” to Davis and Morton for organizing and presenting the Yukon Main Street walk.
Funds raised for The Longest Day support the Alzheimer’s Association’s efforts across Oklahoma.
“The association is the world’s largest nonprofit funder of Alzheimer’s research, and we are committed to finding a cure for Alzheimer’s and all other dementia,” McNeill said. “We provide free education programs and support groups across the state, and we are actively advocating at the state and federal levels for research funding and support for people impacted by this terrible disease.
“We also have a free 24/7 Helpline with specialists and master’s-level clinicians available to offer confidential support and information to people living with dementia, caregivers, families and the public.”
The helpline is available around the clock, 365 days a year at (800) 272-3900.
Many attendees wore special purple Longest Day T-shirts (for a $25 donation), along with bracelets and pins to show support in the fight against Alzheimer’s.
The Oklahoma chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association serves all 77 Oklahoma counties, offering programs and services free of charge to families – thanks to the generous support of donors and fundraisers like Yukon’s Walk the Route.
The Alzheimer’s Association is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Its mission is to:
- Eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research
- Provide and enhance care and support for all affected
- Reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health.
The association’s mission is to have a “world without Alzheimer’s disease.”
For more information, visit alz.org/Oklahoma or call (800) 272-3900.