According to information provided by Helen Paes, community development coordinator/media relations at the Alzheimer's Association Greater East Ohio Area Chapter, "Alzheimer's disease is not just memory loss Alzheimer's kills."
Calling upon the need for growth in both funding and awareness, "Alzheimer's disease is the most under-recognized public health crisis of the 21st century," stated Paes. It affects Americans across all walks of life and all regions of the country.
"Today more than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease," she said.
Photos by Kathleen Palumbo, Town Crier correspondent
Surrounded by family, friends, pastor and fellow parishioners, and many of her caregivers from Vista Center of Boardman, Karen Wilson had with her a team of nearly 70 supporters who together, raised $2,400 for the Alzheimer’s Association.
On Saturday, Oct. 12, the Alzheimer's Association held what Paes said was the largest Walk to End Alzheimer's ever held in the Mahoning Valley.
"While it is difficult to estimate the number of participants, we estimate more that approximately 800 were in attendance," she said.
Held in some 600 communities around the country during September and October, Paes said the walks are the nation's largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer's care, support and research. "We call on volunteers of all ages to become champions in the fight against Alzheimer's," she said, adding that those champions include people living with the disease, friends, families, caregivers, businesses and community leaders.
Well represented at the Boardman event were the champions of Karen Wilson, diagnosed approximately six years ago with Alzheimer's.
According to her son, Scott Wilson, the past year has shown the most rapid progression in the deterioration of his mother's health due to Alzheimer's.
"This is really tough for all of them," he said of the members of Team Karen.
With strong ties to the community, Wilson cited his mother's past position as president of the Youngstown Area Arts Council, founder of First Night Youngstown, and active involvement with Summer Festival of the Arts when it was still known as Walk on Wick, just to name a few of her numerous involvements.
An only child, Wilson said he and his parents were lifelong area Poland residents. Although he remains in Poland, Wilson shared that his father passed away in January, and due to her health issues, his mom has resided at Vista Center in Boardman for the past two years.
He said Vista Administrator Matt Parkes, activities director Maureen McCarty, and Tracy D'Andrea, an owner of Vista, spearheaded the efforts of Team Karen. They were joined by friends, neighbors, and the pastor and fellow parishioners from Poland United Methodist Church, where until just a few months ago, his mother was transported to attend services. Add in his mother's Vista caregivers and Team Karen reached nearly 70 individuals.
Together, Wilson's team raised $2,400 for the Alzheimer's Association.
"That's a big number," said her son, who noted a strong family history of the disease on his mother's side. He has also lost an uncle to the disease.
Alzheimer's statistics provided by Paes name the disease as the only one among the top 10 in America without a way to prevent it, cure it or even slow its progression. Furthermore, there simply are no survivors.
"If you do not die from it, you die with it."
Witnessing his mother's battle against a formidable disease which clearly knows no boundaries, "My mom at one time knew everything and everyone in Youngstown," said Wilson.