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Purple flowers indicate a loved one that has passed from Alzheimer’s. Col­legian: Regan Gen­siejewski

I had been looking forward to fall break since this past June when I joined the Rochester Walk to End Alzheimer’s com­mittee.

Meeting once every month, as a member of the walk com­mittee, I tabled for Alzheimer’s Asso­ci­ation at dif­ferent events, hung posters and handed out pam­phlets in neigh­boring towns, spoke about my story with Alzheimer’s, and made mar­keting videos to promote the walk. 

Working to raise awareness for Alzheimer’s disease has been on my mind for a while now. In the early 90’s, my grand­mother, Lois Reese, was diag­nosed with Alzheimer’s. Around 2010, she was moved into a nursing home, where my family and I visited her until she passed away in the summer of 2015. Though I was young, I remember quite a lot from the nursing home and saw up close just how dev­as­tating the disease is.

It was through this tough time that I saw the true power of love. Nearly every day for five years, my grand­father made the drive to the nursing home in his little red car to visit the love of his life. On days when the weather was too bad or he was not feeling well, he was heart­broken to miss a day with her. My grand­mother did even­tually forget who my family and I were, but what never changed was the joy on her face when our family walked in the nursing home. Though she couldn’t remember us, she knew that we were people that she loved. And even in the final stages of the disease, my grand­mother never forgot who my grand­father was. 

On Sat­urday, Oct. 12, my mom, a few close friends, and I joined 1,398 others on a walk to end Alzheimer’s. It was so touching to see all the hard work we had been doing as a com­mittee be put into action and pay off. In total, the event raised $246,303, which will go towards research and care for patients. 

It poured the entire walk, but I have never seen people so thrilled to be soaked in 40 degree weather. A band played while women in purple wigs danced and kids in purple tutus spun around. Nurses took their patients to get their faces painted and gave them purple pom poms to wave. An a capella group sang along to keep people’s spirits high. Everyone who crossed the finish line was dancing along to the music, high-fiving everyone around. 

The cold weather and rain could’ve scared everyone away from the walk in Rochester, NY that Sat­urday morning, but instead it just raised spirits and created smiles. Rain or shine, everyone was going to be there to fight Alzheimer’s. 

I cannot think of a better way to honor my grand­mother than to have walked in her honor this fall break, and I know she sat in heaven smiling proudly for my fight.