Medina Journal-Register — For nine years, Deborah (McPherson) Smith would travel from her home in Michigan to Medina to spend time with her parents in the village in which she was raised. During those years, she watched, helplessly, as Alzheimer’s disease took a terrible toll on her mother Ruth (Pegelow) McPherson. Her father, Homer, provided around-the-clock care for his wife of 64 years.
On one of those visits in 2011, Smith saw a banner promoting the “Walk to End Alzheimer’s,” organized by the Alzheimer’s Association, Western New York Chapter and taking place in the village that September.
“I thought, ‘Hey, we should get involved!’ Mom was such a compassionate person and I knew she would be pleased to see us trying to do something to help end this horrible disease,” said Smith. “Mom joined us at our first Walk, cheering us on from the sidelines!”
Deb and most of her 10 siblings started a team of 15 to walk that year, raising money to sustain the chapter’s education and support services and to help fund research into the disease. In 2012, she again traveled from Michigan, and was joined by 24 team members, including her husband, whose father also had Alzheimer’s. This year, for the Walk at Canal Basin Park in Medina this Saturday, she is expecting 35 people to walk as part of “The Mac Pack,” which will include siblings, their children and some family friends.
Smith said “The Pack” is stronger than ever, and more motivated than ever. “Mom lost her fight just about a year ago, so we walk to honor her memory, and to try to do what we can to help find a treatment that may slow the progression, ease symptoms, or hopefully, lead to a cure.”
Ruth was one of the estimated 1,500 individuals in Orleans County who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and her husband Homer was much like the 4,500 family and friends of those with the disease who provide 24-our care for them. The Chapter offers various services for these families, including care consultations, programs on living with the disease and caring for a loved one, and advocacy to push for funding so scientists will have the resources to treat and cure Alzheimer’s disease.
Smith said there is also one more reason to walk: fun.
“While the donations and time go toward a great cause, getting some fresh air, enjoying the scenery, joining the community and people you haven’t seen for a while, coupled with good music, good food and lots of fun with the auctions... what’s not to love?” she said.
The fundraising Walk to End Alzheimer’s is open to the public. Registered walkers receive a vinyl flower pinwheel they can personalize with a name or message. The flowers are then “planted” in a Promise Garden at the site, and walkers can retrieve them to take home as a remembrance of their loved and the day.
Registration is online at alz.org/wny or by calling (800) 272-3900. Registration will also take place starting at 9 a.m. on Saturday. The walk itself begins at 10 a.m.