An estimated 4,000 men, women and children converged on the National Mall, registering as walkers, with one goal in mind: raising funds for research, treatment and prevention and increasing awareness that will lead the way to Alzheimer’s first survivor — finally putting an end to the daily struggles, pain and uncertainty endured by millions of people who live with the disease and their families.
While the final numbers have not been released by representatives from the Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s, they have confirmed that 77 percent of their goal of $1.2 million has been raised, $929,590, as of Saturday, Oct. 13, the day of the walk.
Angela Davis, like so many others, has made participating in the walk a pilgrimage of sorts, allowing her the opportunity to honor the memory of her mother, Sara Harris Jordan, who suffered from Alzheimer’s prior to her death. This year, as the captain for Tree’s Champions of Liberty, Davis spearheaded efforts that resulted in the achievement of #3 fundraising team for the D.C. walk. The team walked to honor Charles J. Ogletree, “Tree,” the acclaimed attorney and Harvard Law School professor, described by the team as “colleague, mentor, teacher, leader and beloved friend.”
For others, like Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, the challenges he and his family face each day have made them, in Baker’s words, “even closer.”
“There were little things in the beginning that began to catch our attention but what tipped the scale was when my wife (Christa Beverly, 58) took our daughter to Richmond to visit her parents and who suddenly became lost in the same neighborhood in which she’d played and grown up,” said Baker, 59, thinking back over a difficult two-year process that ended with a diagnosis of early onset dementia.
“That was the beginning of this journey — one which really brought us together and confirmed the notion that it does take a village,” he said. “We were fortunate because a close, family friend was also a physician and he knew that despite my wife’s ability to pass several batteries of tests, something was not right. So, we continued to seek answers. Finally, when she could not remember the ages of our children, the neurologist confirmed what he had long suspected.”
Baker recounts the shift in family roles and their change in lifestyle that would occur, describing them as “seismic.”
“My wife made the most money; she was in charge of the finances, made the most money and was the breadwinner. She’d been the one who helped with homework. She’d been in charge of everything. So, it was hard to see her become one who needed assistance doing things that we do without thinking — those abilities to function that we take for granted. Our youngest daughter actually assumed the role of caregiver way before I did. I will still trying to balance this new reality at home versus a new reality in my career — I’d just won the seat for county executive. No, it wasn’t easy.”
“We were saved some of the hardship others face because our family doctor had prepared us. He knew she would change; we knew that she would eventually be unable to be in charge. But you can’t be afraid to be tested. Getting as much information as possible is really important.”
“What we’ve learned throughout it all is to cherish every second with each other — to relish every moment we have with our wife and mother. Nothing else really matters,” he said.