Pictured from left to right, Audra Peoples, Christina Ramos and Julie Roca hand out promotional posters and goodie-bags to cars at the drive-thru kickoff. (Maya Erwin/WUFT News)

The Alzheimer’s Association prepares a walk in Gainesville to end the disease


Audra Peoples watched as her grandfather slowly lost his ability to take care of himself due to dementia.

Now, years after his passing, she is managing a walk to help cure and support others suffering from this disease.

The Alzheimer’s Association is hosting the “Walk to End Alzheimer’s” at 9 a.m. on Oct. 16 at Trinity United Methodist Church to gain support in their fight against this crippling disease. Registration to attend the 2-mile-walk is free and will be open until the day of the event. They hosted a drive-thru kickoff on Sept. 16 to raise awareness for this upcoming event.

“This is really to let all of our walkers, our sponsors, our volunteers, our supporters and our fundraisers come and pick up materials, learn more about the walk, get excited about why and just answer any questions they might have,” Peoples said.

The kickoff event is normally held indoors, but because of COVID-19 precautions, it was held outdoors, she added.

Touching Hearts at Home, an 11-year-old homecare provider company, sponsored this year’s kickoff event and is excited about contributing to this important cause.

Christina Ramos, Executive Director at Touching Hearts at Home, hopes that the kickoff event helped to gain traction for the upcoming walk.

“We are gathering and touching base with all of our team captains and all of our community partners and sponsors,” she said. “The show must go on, even if it is a little bit of a different format.”

Ramos and Peoples are aiming for 600 participants at the Oct. 16 walk, compared to the 1,000 that normally attend the annual event. This year, a virtual option will be available for those concerned about the pandemic but wanting to participate in the effort.

“The Alzheimer’s Association has created an excellent app,” Ramos said. “You can download it, register for your team and along the way, through virtual reality, there are actual little stops along whatever route you decide to take, as well as other opportunities to get badges and points and hit those really fun and exciting mile markers.”

One of the stops on the two-mile walk, both virtual and in-person, is the flower garden, a large display of multicolored flower-shaped pinwheels.

Multicolored pinwheels decorate the outside of Touching Hearts at Home as a representation of the walk’s flower garden. (Maya Erwin/WUFT News)

Julie Roca, a liaison representative for Vitas Hospice, explained the meaning behind the five different flower colors.

“The yellow flower represents the caregiver. The orange flower represents someone who supports the cause, and maybe they don’t have a direct connection, but they just support it. The purple flower is ‘I have lost a loved one to the disease,’ and the blue flower, you won’t see too many of them on walk day, but those are symbolizing people that are living with the disease,” she said.

There will only be one white flower, which will be given to a younger walker as a representation of a survivor of the disease, Roca said.

“I just want to see a bunch of community members come together and create teams, and that’s where we get the most ability to raise that awareness and to raise those funds,” she said.

The goal for this year’s walk is to raise $95,000, which will be a mix of sponsorship dollars and personal fundraising dollars that will be donated to the Alzheimer’s Association.

“Awareness is definitely a component of it, but money raised from walks upright like this from across the country goes toward research for a cure for Alzheimer’s,” Peoples said.

According to Peoples, there is no participation fee to take part in the walk, but donations are strongly encouraged.

“We’re just all looking forward to starting that walk and crossing that finish line,” Ramos said.

About Maya Erwin

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