Walk to End Alzheimer's flowers means more than their colors

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COLUMBIA - A field of flowers swept through Columbia on Sunday in honor of the Alzheimer's Association’s 2018 Walk to End Alzheimer's.

Participants lifted up classic pinwheel flowers, a symbol of every Alzheimer's walk, for the Promise Garden ceremony. Each color represents a different connection with Alzheimer’s disease. Blue for people diagnosed with Alzheimer's, yellow for caregivers, orange for those who support a world without the disease, and purple for people who have lost someone to Alzheimer's.

“It celebrates the hope and the connection that everybody has and really just honors every part of what this disease does to families," said Lizzi Willett, the Walk Manager for Alzheimer's Association of Greater Missouri.

While the Promise Garden is a nationwide experience, more than 60 percent of donations from the Columbia walk stayed within the Greater Missouri chapter. It's goal is to provide local support to people with Alzheimer’s and their caretakers.

Alzheimer's is the only top 10 cause of death in America that has no prevention or cure, according to the Alzheimer's Association. The association hosts the walk to bring awareness and raise money to find a cure.

Sponsors donated to fund booths, food, chairs and other venue related items. However, every personal donation is guaranteed to fund support groups, education classes, and care consultations.

Many of the resources the Alzheimer's Association provides are geared toward helping caretakers. Willett said there are upward of 300,000 caretakers in Missouri.

“Those are family members that may leave their job or may be working again in retirement to take care of their loved ones,” Willett said. “It’s really nice for our caregivers to have those support systems.”

Willett has a first-hand experience with taking care of loved one with Alzheimer's. When Willett's grandfather was diagnosed with dementia, she and her grandmother played a large role in taking care of him.

“I lived with my grandparents a lot growing up,” Willett said. “I was there for a lot of that time, being there for grandmother and being a caregiver. So it’s important to me that especially those caregivers are recognized.”

Willett joined the Alzheimer's Association to help those experiencing the same emotional trials she did. She went to her first walk this year and said the experience was “amazing and incredibly emotional.”

“Not matter anyone’s connection to the cause... coming out to the walk, and seeing the colors, and seeing the support, and resources that are available, can really change the outcome of how your family is going to go through this disease,” Willett said.

It was free to register for the walk. By Sunday morning, about 600 people had registered and more than $100,000 had been donated. The top fundraiser was MU’s chapter of Sigma Kappa, which raised nearly $60,000.