No cure, but plenty of hope
As Judi Womack knows, Alzheimer's disease doesn't discriminate.
"It can happen to anyone," said Womack, family caregiver advisor with the Lee County Enrichment Center.
In her work, Womack regularly interacts with people affected by Alzheimer's disease. Of the roughly 100 caregivers she assists, she estimates that 85 percent are caring for loved ones with some form of dementia. Nationally, more than 5 million Americans are living with the disease, which is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the Alzheimer's Association.
While there is no cure, Womack said, activities this weekend will make one that much more likely. The eighth annual Alzheimer's Walk, and the first 5K “Race to Remember,” will get under way Saturday morning at Sanford's Kiwanis Family Park.
"Our purpose is to raise awareness of this disease, as well as to raise funds to hopefully find a cure," Womack said, adding, "We certainly want to provide support to individuals with dementia, as well as their families."
The 5K was the idea of an Alzheimer's walk committee member, and Womack said she hopes the addition helps increase awareness and participation.
"I think we'll probably have some new people," Womack said. "We're trying to reach some people we haven't reached in the past."
The walk, and now the race, brings together runners, walkers, friends and families, as well as corporate teams, in a common cause, she added. Past walks have raised as much as $35,000, and donations stay in the state due to a partnership with Raleigh-based Alzheimer's North Carolina, according to Womack.
"Whatever Sanford and Lee County can raise will certainly be appreciated," she added.
Registration for the 5K begins at 7:30 a.m., and start time is 8:30 a.m. Entry in the race costs $25, and runners will meet at Kiwanis Park before hitting Sanford's greenway. Registration for the walk opens at 9 a.m., followed by the opening ceremony at 9:45 a.m. and the walk kickoff at 10 a.m. Food and entertainment will be offered along with the main events.
"We're very pet and kid friendly," Womack said. "It's for the whole family."
While there is no fee to register for the walk, each participant is expected to contribute through fundraising, Womack said. Several sponsors have already pledged their support, and any walker who raises $50 will receive a T-shirt.
In a prepared statement, sponsor Sharon Crawford, owner of R & N Motor Company, said, “seeing Kiwanis Family Park [filled] with runners, walkers, young children to adults, is a satisfying sight, especially knowing that 100 percent of our donations will stay in North Carolina.”
The Enrichment Center offers Alzheimer's resources year round in the form of support groups, workshops, training, caregiver aid and more. Those who have questions or need 5K registration forms or other materials can contact Womack at (919) 776-0501 ext. 2230.
FACTS ABOUT ALZHEIMER'S
* It is a brain disease that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior.
* It is the most common form of dementia — memory loss that interferes with daily life.
* It gets worse over time.
* There is no known cure — only treatment of symptoms.
* One in six women and one in 10 men who reach age 55 can expect to develop Alzheimer's in their lifetime.
* Ten million baby boomers will develop Alzheimer's disease in the United States.
* It is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
* There are no survivors of Alzheimer's disease.
* African Americans and Hispanics are at a greater risk
Information courtesy of the Lee County Enrichment Center