Grand Island Walk to End Alzheimer’s spreads awareness across Central Nebraska

Published: Sep. 13, 2020 at 7:26 PM CDT
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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - The Grand Island Walk to End Alzheimer’s happened on Sunday. Instead of having a large gathering, the Nebraska Alzheimer’s Association did it virtually in-conjunction with in-person activities to keep the spirit of the walk alive.

“We’re just not doing so in one large gathering," Nebraska Alzheimer’s Association Walk Manager Cassie Larreau-Bailey said. "Usually there’s between three or 400 people, and so we’re encouraging people to get out in their families with their teams, much smaller groups of people, so they can maintain appropriate social distancing, and they can feel safe and comfortable.”

People were encouraged to walk everywhere to raise awareness on Alzheimer’s. They could walk in their neighborhoods, local parks, or trails across Central Nebraska.

The Association planted a small version of their traditional promise garden at Suck’s Lake, because this is a pillar of the annual event. They put 30 windmills out to represent each team’s connection to Alzheimer’s or dementia. Blue was for those who were living with Alzheimer’s, yellow was for the caregiver’s, orange was for advocates, and purple was for those who had lost someone to the disease.

“Typically our participants will have a couple of these flowers with them the day of the event, and they will hold them with them as they walk, Larreau-Bailey said. "This year what we’ve done in place of having those flowers is everybody was mailed a set of five flags - then they can carry them with them as they’re walking through their own neighborhoods.”

Every year the walk takes place at Suck’s Lake in Grand Island, but the Alzheimer’s Association decided to alter the event to keep people safe from the virus.

“Not only do our seniors have additional health issues that might cause them to be more susceptible to COVID-19 or to have worse outcomes, but we work with other vulnerable populations like our Latin-x, our African American community," Larreau-Bailey said. "It’s very important for us that we are keeping the health and the safety of our participants, and our volunteers at the forefront of everything we do.”

It was a tough for the Alzheimer’s Association to eliminate the traditional walk.

“Everybody is bummed - because we love celebrating, really making those connections and having that chance for our caregivers to network, and to see that there are other people who are going through this.”

They wanted to make sure to include in-person activities, because this event is a safe space for people to share their stories and know they’re not alone. There is a stigma around people admitting to having or a family member having Alzheimer’s.

“It’s important to us to still have those in-person aspects because as you’re driving around and you see somebody who is out - wearing purple, and their getting their walk on, you know this person has been impacted, you know this person has been touched.”

The association streamed their promise garden ceremony on their website, and they will keep it up for the rest of the year. People who missed out on the event can walk for Alzheimer’s when it’s convenient.

“If someone says, hey I wasn’t able to walk today, that’s ok," Larreau-Bailey said. "If next weekend works for better for you and your family, you can click on the website, you can watch that promise garden ceremony, and you guys can get out and wear your purple and do your own walk.”

People sent photos to the association from their perosnal walk to Larreau-Bailey’s at or their Facebook group. People who knows someone struggling with Alzheimer’s or dementia can call the association’s 24/hour hotline to get help at 1(800) 272-3900.

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