BURNHAM - On Sept. 29, participants of the second community Walk to End Alzheimer's will be picking blue, yellow, purple or orange flowers as they lead their team in the walk around Derry Township Community Park.
The flowers, part of the newly designed Promise Garden, represent each walker's relationship to the disease and the promise to continue fighting for research, said Clay MacTarnaghan, walk coordinator.
Blue is the color for those living with Alzheimer's, yellow for those supporting or caring for someone with Alzheimer's, purple for those who have lost someone to Alzheimer's and orange for those who support the cause.
Sentinel photo by MATT?STRICKER
Juniata High School student Brittany Henry, 16, left, cuts a ribbon on Oct. 1, 2011, to begin the first Mifflin/Juniata Walk to End Alzheimer's at Derry Township Community Park, Burnham.
"The Promise Garden calls for participants to come together, making a commitment to fulfill their promise to remember, to honor, to care and to fight Alzheimer's disease," MacTarnaghan said. "Each walker (will write) a personal message on their promise flower. Participants are encouraged to walk through the garden and read each others stories."
Everyone you talk to knows someone affected by this disease, said Mary Lou Hazard, walk participant. Hazard is walking as part of team "Dear Mommom" in honor of her mother-in-law who has been living with Alzheimer's for 10 years, she said.
"It's so sad to see such an independent and intelligent woman become completely dependent on someone else," Hazard said. "She might recognize us, but I can't say that she knows us."
Hazard has also designed and crafted a quilt for her mother-in-law, entitled "Remember Me," to be raffled off at the Walk to End Alzheimer's. Tickets can be purchased before or during the walk at $1 each or six tickets for $5. Tickets can be purchased the day of the walk or in advance by calling 527-4869.
"We have sold close to 600 tickets so far," Hazard said. "I hope the quilt will end up in a good home and the raffle will raise enough money to help with research."
According to the Alzheimer's Association, there are 5.4 million Americans living with Alzheimer's disease, including 280,000 people in Pennsylvania. Alzheimer's is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States.
Based on the most recent data from the Pennsylvania Department of Health, there were 10,944 in-state deaths by Alzheimer's from 2008-2010, including 16 in Juniata County and 44 in Mifflin County.
"We have done a great job with breast cancer awareness and fundraising, but we need to address Alzheimer's," MacTarnaghan said. "The rate of death from breast cancer is dropping, but the rate from Alzheimer's is increasing. We need to do our part now. We're not just helping others, but our own futures as well."
Last year the Walk to End Alzheimer's had 147 registered walkers and raised $15,000, but the goal this year is to have 200 walkers and raise $20,000, MacTarnaghan said.
Though people can register to walk in-person at the event, MacTarnaghan recommends registering as a team or individual ahead of time on the Mifflin-Juniata Walk to End Alzheimer's website at act.alz.org/mifflinjuniatacounties2012.