I f there is one social element that the pandemic utterly destroyed, it is the gathering of large crowds. The Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Arlington is no exception, but fortunately, this year’s annual Walk is still happening on Saturday, Nov. 7. And it’s happening EVERYWHERE.
“Although the world may look different right now, one thing hasn’t changed: our commitment to ending Alzheimer’s,” says Holly Clinton, Walk Manager for the Alzheimer’s Association. “This year, the Walk is going to be everywhere – on every sidewalk, track and trail throughout Arlington and surrounding areas!”
“This year’s event won’t be a large in-person gathering,” adds Liz Miller, Director of Special Events and Marketing for the North Central Texas Chapter of the Association. “Instead, we invite you to walk in small teams of friends and family while others in your community do the same. The health and safety of our walkers, volunteers and staff are our top priorities.”
One of those walkers this year is Arlington resident Camala Cunningham. Cunningham is walking for both her mother, Myrna Cline, and her best friend Cindy, both of whom she lost to Alzheimer’s this year.
“Cindy developed Younger Onset Alzheimer’s in 2014 at the age of 55, and passed away in March at age 61,” says Cunningham. “‘My mom lived with dementia for at least six years before passing away in June. This has been a tough year.”
Alzheimer’s is not just a disease of the elderly. “It can strike at any time, and it’s never the same in two people,” says Cunningham. “My mother had issues with short-term memory, but seemed to be OK with long-term. She had been an elementary school principal in Mansfield and Arlington, and was always very structured and disciplined. When she began to lose that daily structure, I knew something was wrong.”
“It took a bit longer to recognize when Cindy was having difficulties,” Cunningham continues. ““Cindy was an artist, and was always kind of flighty in the way many creative people are.”
When Cindy’s husband placed her in full time memory care in 2016, Camala visited her and was shocked. “She didn’t know who I was,” Cunningham recounts. “We had known each other since 2003.”
The decline of her mother was on a different level. “We finally had to place her in assisted living, but she seemed OK with it. She even decided she was not going to walk anymore, and we had to move her around in a wheelchair. She had good days that we would spend going outside to a Sonic or Whataburger.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Camala, like many others, was no longer able to see her mother face to face. “She was OK with FaceTime,” says Camala with a smile. “But the day finally came when we had to move her to hospice care in a hospital, where at least I could visit her, and finally say goodbye.”
This year, the Walk is especially poignant to Cunningham who sees it as a way to honor her two loved ones after losing them so recently. “I am just thrilled that the Walk is still taking place, and it’s being held in a way that ensures everyone’s safety,” she says. “It gives me an opportunity to honor both of them, while also contributing to finding a cure.”
Just like the hundreds of other walkers in the Arlington area who register, Cunningham doesn’t just walk on Nov. 7. She also raises funds throughout the year.
“Nearly 80% of the funds raised from the Arlington Walk to End Alzheimer’s directly fund the care, support, research, awareness and advocacy efforts of the Alzheimer’s Association,” says Holly Clinton.
Held annually in more than 600 communities nationwide, Walk to End Alzheimer’s is the world’s largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research. The Alzheimer’s Association is the largest private funder of Alzheimer’s research in the world. The nonprofit’s current research investment includes over $208 million in 590 active best-of-field projects in 31 countries.
“We would absolutely LOVE it if we worked ourselves out of a job!” Clinton says.
For more: act.alz.org/arlington.