PUBLISHED OCT. 27, 2016
By LOIS KINDLE
A bit of misty rain didn’t dampen the spirits of over 600 area residents who turned out Oct. 15 to support Alzheimer’s Association programs.
The celebratory event was made more special this year as the South Shore-based walk observed its 10th anniversary and raised more than $80,000. That amount is sure to grow, said walk organizer Connie Lesko, once proceeds from several smaller fundraisers are added.
Among the 62 enthusiastic teams participating in this year’s effort was Team Purple Power, captained by Noelle Bramble. Her 8-year-old son, Dylan, came up with the idea to dress as a superhero, which the family named Capt. Cure. His siblings, Azalea, 8, and Donovan, 12, became his “trusty sidekicks,” Bramble said. “It was so much fun. He was such a ham, and everyone in the crowd screamed, ‘Capt. Cure!’ as we walked across the finish line.”
The Bramble family walked on behalf of the kids’ paternal grandmother, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about five years ago. She died at Sun Terrace the following Tuesday.
“Every day you wake up and never know what to expect when someone you love has Alzheimer’s,” Bramble said, noting she and her husband, Dale, were his mother’s caregivers for years. “To me, Alzheimer’s is a disease of the family. There’s so much about the disease you can’t control. It obviously affects the person who has it, but it also has ripple effects down to the youngest children.”
Bramble said it’s difficult to be the “body, mind and voice” for someone you love. Such responsibility, however willingly accepted, “takes its toll.”
“The walk helped us as a family feel we were actually doing something to help.”
Sundance resident Connie Lesko, organizer of the annual South Shore Walk to End Alzheimer’s, knows Bramble’s experience first-hand. Years ago, she lost both of her parents to the disease. She used to walk for them, she said, but now she walks for the future of her children and grandchildren.
“What means so much to me each year is that people come out — and they are all walking for different reasons and loved ones — some as advocates; some as caregivers; some who’ve lost a friend or family member; or others currently living with the disease,” Lesko said. “Regardless of their reason, they are all united by one mission, and that is what continues to inspire me.”
Lesko said she is overwhelmed by the love and support of the community.
“Every year I ask and every year hundreds and hundreds of people come together to make this happen,” she said. “I truly believe that each year we move closer to better methods of treatment, prevention and ultimately a cure.”
Special awards at the 2016 walk went to Marianne Wexler as Top Individual Fundraiser, who turned in $7,400 with the help of her Oakley Green Drive neighbors; Freedom Plaza as Top Corporate Team, $8,170; and Actors Against Alzheimer’s in the category of Top Family and Friends, $12,815.
A special community award will go to the United Methodist Church of Sun City Center’s Methodists on the Move, an army of volunteers who raised $8,884. The church has hosted the walk since its inception in 2006.
Per statistics reported by the Alzheimer’s Association in 2014, Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Someone develops the disease every 67 seconds, and millions of Americans are living with it. Among the top 10 causes of death in this country, it is the only one that cannot be prevented, cured or slowed. And that’s why the research is so critical, Lesko said.
All walk proceeds go to the Alzheimer’s Association Gulf Coast Chapter, a tax-exempt, 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization.
“Programs and services are made possible through contributions from individuals, corporations and foundations,” said Katie Hood, vice president of development. “The residents in the South Shore (and Sun City Center) area(s) can contact our local office at 813-684-1296 for help. All our services are available at no cost to families because of support from events and local contributions (like the South Shore Walk to End Alzheimer’s).