Walk to End Alzheimer’s comes to Huntington

A Promise Garden grew around Big Sandy Arena on Saturday morning as hundreds of people gathered for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. At 10 a.m., the Promise Garden ceremony started. Each participant raised a personalized Promise Flower with a color representing their reason for walking. The Promise Flowers created a colorful garden. Participants promised to remember, honor, care and fight for those living with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. After making their promise, the 2 mile walk around Pullman Square began.

Booths were available for participants to learn more about Alzheimer’s disease, advocacy opportunities, clinical studies enrollment and support programs and services.

“It’s joyful, people have a positive feel for being hopeful and moving forward,” Noreen Starkey said.

Starkey lost her father to Alzheimer’s in March of last year. Starkey has worked in long-term care for 30 years and said her father’s Alzheimer’s hit her family quite differently.

“I talked to him right up until his last breath and I knew that he knew I was there,” Starkey said. “I knew that he understood what I was saying even if he couldn’t answer me back and that’s so important for people to remember for their loved ones.”

Starkey described her father as being very productive and not wanting to just sit down in a chair, something she sees a lot in the Alzheimer’s Unit.

“I talked to him right up until his last breath and I knew that he knew I was there.””

— Noreen Starkey

“He still had his passion for teaching but would lose his way to the college,” Starkey said. “He would remember things vividly about when he served in the war, memories when we were children but he couldn’t remember our names or what he had for breakfast.”

An avid caregiver, Starkey spends a couple hours in the Alzheimer’s Unit at the Heritage Unit every day.

“Even if that person doesn’t remember you’re there if you can do something kind for them, give them a hug, talk to them, and make them happy, that good feeling stays with them,” Starkey said.

The Walk to End Alzheimer’s is the world’s largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research.

The Alzheimer’s Association envisions a world without Alzheimer’s as they plan to eliminate the disease through the advancement of research.

Brianna Paxton can be contacted at [email protected].