'Alzheimer's doesn't stop and neither do we': Annual walk to carry on differently in 2020

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BEMIDJI -- More than 300 participants join the Walk to End Alzheimer's in Bemidji on an annual basis.

This year, marchers aren't going to be gathering together and walking to the Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox statues, but the effort to combat Alzheimer's will continue.

"Typically, in the past, it'd be a few hundred of us getting together and walking that trail," said Jenny Theis, an organizer for Walk to End Alzheimer's. "This year, though, because of the pandemic, we've had to do things differently. So our event this year is a very interactive, online event."

The "walk" is scheduled for Sept. 19 and participants will be able to log in to participate in the day's events.

"They'll go to a special website that we've developed for this year," Theis said. "They can log in at 9 a.m. and we will have a live opening ceremony and a Promise Garden ceremony. That should take about 20 minutes and they can then go out and walk anywhere they want. People can go walk in their own neighborhoods, they can go out by themselves or with their families, however they'd like."


Theis said later that day, after the day's walking period of the event, there will be a drive-by Promise Garden period. According to Theis, the garden, which will be placed on the Sanford Health campus along Anne Street, reflects the people who have Alzheimer's and their caregivers.

"We have four flowers we plant," Theis said. "The blue ones are for someone who has Alzheimer's, purple are for someone who's lost somebody to the disease, yellow are for caregivers and orange are for people who have not been personally touched by Alzheimer's but are still advocates for the cause."

Nationwide, Walks to End Alzheimer's take place annually in more than 600 communities. It's the world's largest fundraiser for Alzheimer's care.

According to the Alzheimer's Association's website, between 2000 and 2018 the number of deaths from Alzheimer's has increased 146%. More than 5 million Americans live with the disease and there are more than 16 million caregivers living with people who have Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. In 2020, Alzheimer's will cost the United States $305 billion and the number is projected to rise to more than $1.1 trillion in 2050.

Alzheimer's is a devastating disease and it has not stopped because of the pandemic," Theis said. "I've been very impressed with everything the national organization has been able to do so quickly. Alzheimer's doesn't stop and neither do we."

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