Alzheimer’s walk finishes strong

LIHUE — More than 150 walkers celebrated the ninth Walk to End Alzheimer’s Saturday morning at Kukui Grove Center. Joining them was a family of Canadian visitors, who found out about the event while looking online for things to do on Kauai.

Holly Walker of Winnipeg, who drove with her family from Princeville to participate, said her grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, so she wanted to be part of the event at Kukui Grove.

Kauai walkers joined the world’s largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research through the Alzheimer’s Association. The event is held annually in more than 600 communities around the nation and at four locations in Hawaii.

Others had similar reasons for participating.

“We lost our mother to Alzheimer’s last year,” said Phil Worwa, aka Santa. “It was very sad. I’m doing the walk for her.”

Ashley Studerus, the Alzheimer’s Association public policy and development coordinator, was disappointed the group did not meet the goal of at least 200 walkers, but was elated that they raised nearly $30,000, almost double last year’s efforts.

“We have come a long way,” said Umberto Blanco, one of the organizers. “Starting from $12,000 four years ago, and $18,000 last year, we are so blessed with generous people. Next year is our 10th year, so it should be even more special.”

Leading the fundraising efforts were the Grand Champions, including Grace Delos Reyes, Laurel Coleman, Patricia Gonsalves and Rona Miura. Those individual fundraisers were joined by team efforts including those from Team Regency at Puakea, the Memory Keepers from the county’s Office of Elderly Affairs, and Kauai Cares.

Coleman, a geriatrician, or physician who cares for the elderly, said this was her first Kauai walk after participating in 22 other walks.

“There are more than 5 million people affected with Alzheimer’s,” Coleman said. “And there are more than 16 million caregivers. Alzheimer’s requires others to care for you, and this can go on for years. This makes it once of the most expensive diseases.”

Coleman said she was uncertain about the data for Kauai, but there is a need for more research and money for caregiving families.

“The longer we live, the greater chance we’re likely to get Alzheimer’s,” she said. “Alzheimer’s is also one of the underdiagnosed diseases.”

Lawai Beach Resort was one of the new teams this year, joining the field of 12 teams.

“Our director of engineering, Miles Kobayashi, said his mother was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s,” said Deborah Crippen, the Lawai Beach Resort human resources manager. “He found out about the walk and asked if this was something the resort could get involved in. This is only our second year, and we should have more people involved next year.”

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