Sandi Ring, Terry Lam and the rest of the Mary’s Memories team members have been participating in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s ever since their mother, Mary Hull, was diagnosed with the disease eight years ago.
In May 2020, Mary Hull lost her battle with Alzheimer’s.
“Everybody has to do what they can to stop this disease,” said Jackie Hull, one of Mary’s children.
The team, made up of Mary Hull’s children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren, wore purple shirts with the phrase “As long as I breathe, you will be remembered” written on them as they walked around James Madison University’s Sentara Park on Saturday.
Ring said the family usually participates in Luray’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s, but the event wasn’t hosted this year. With a desire to continue being involved with the event, the team registered for Harrisonburg’s walk.
“We are happy to be here,” she said.
Ring said that by participating in the event, she hopes people will become more aware of the disease and its impact on families.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 1 in 9 people at the age of 65 or older have Alzheimer’s dementia. In 2021, nearly 6.2 million Americans age 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s dementia.
Lam said that when she would visit her mother during her final years, it was a different experience every time.
“You don’t know what to expect each visit,” she said.
Until someone personally goes through it, it is difficult to describe the experience, Lam said.
“People need to be aware, and hopefully one day there will be a cure,” she said.
To aid in finding a cure, the team raised more than $10,700 for the Alzheimer’s Association. The donations will go toward funding local programs held by the association, such as care consultations and a 24/7 help hotline.
The team plans to continue fundraising until Dec. 31, which is the last day donations will be accepted.
“We work all year long,” Lam said.
The event itself had a fundraising goal of $105,000. As of Saturday, fundraising surpassed $122,000.
The biggest fundraising group of the day was JMU’s Sigma Kappa Delta Rho chapter, which raised more than $38,000. The sorority’s goal is to raise $65,000 for the association.
Camryn Farris, Sigma Kappa’s vice president of philanthropic service, said it was a rewarding experience to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association, adding she was happy to be a part of the event.
“It’s something that is one of our favorite events,” she said. “Everything we do leads up to this moment.”
Before the walk began, participants were given a flower colored to represent their connection to the disease.
Blue flowers represented someone living with Alzheimer’s or dementia, yellow flowers meant a person was supporting or caring for a person with Alzheimer’s and orange flowers showed support for the Alzheimer’s Association’s vision and cause.
As Mary’s Memories team members walked in honor of Mary Hull, they received purple flowers representing those who have lost someone to the disease.
Color by color, Chris Carmichael, with iHeartRadio, asked participants to raise their flowers in the air until every flower was spinning with the wind.
Once all flowers were raised, Carmichael pulled out a fifth flower — a white flower.
“This will represent the first survivor of Alzheimer’s,” he said. “Wouldn’t that be a beautiful addition to our garden?”