More than 200 participants walked with a purpose at Riverside Park to support individuals grappling with memory and movement disorders during the 17th annual Walk to Remember to benefit the Alzheimer & Parkinson Association of IRC.
“We’ve set the bar very high during this challenging year and are encouraged by the enthusiasm from the Vero Beach community,” said Judith Lemoncelli, APIRC director of development and communication.
The nonprofit’s signature fundraiser raises awareness and funds for the myriad free programs and services that help individuals with neurodegenerative diseases and their caregivers, such as facilitated support groups, educational caregiver workshops, music appreciation, social respite, light exercise, Qigong, yoga and related movement programs.
Masked and socially distanced, participants gathered around the stage for the opening ceremony. Although modifications were made in consideration of the pandemic, the walkers enthusiastically welcomed the Sebastian Area Veterans Honor Guard as they marched past, before John Sammartano warmed everyone up with a few stretches.
Peggy Cunningham, APIRC executive director, disclosed that 60,000 people are diagnosed with Parkinson’s each year and more than 5 million suffer with Alzheimer’s, a number that is projected to triple in the next 30 years. Locally, more than 7,500 people are impacted by some form of movement or memory disorder.
“Nationally there are 6 million unpaid caregivers for those with dementia. If you put all of those unpaid caregivers in one spot, it would be the fifth-largest state in the union,” said Cunningham.
“This year, we had to be very, very creative in how we delivered our mission. We are slowly and safely picking up our beat and bringing our folks in and still giving them a lot of optional ways to get their support.”
Through a great deal of hard work and effort, Cunningham announced that they had met this year’s goal of $117,000 before challenging participants to continue their fundraising through November in hopes of reaching last year’s goal of $156,000.
“We at Alzheimer & Parkinson improve the quality of life for families in this county who are impacted by these memory and movement disorders. The way we do this is through support, education and connection; connecting them to each other and connecting them to the resources that are available. Because of you, we can offer our programs free of charge,” said Cunningham.
For more information, visit alzpark.org.