Alzheimer’s San Diego raises over $ 400,000 in annual fundraising walk

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Larry Hamon had only been retired for three months when his wife began to have trouble remembering words.

The 76-year-old Poway resident cared for Sally for six years as her memory loss progressed gradually from aphasia to a full diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Ultimately, his decline was abrupt, but throughout Hamon’s journey of care, the San Diego Alzheimer’s support group for men he now heads has helped him through the emotional, often turbulent last few months. .

“Guys want to make it right, want to be in charge, and with this disease you are not in charge and you can’t fix this problem,” Hamon said. “You can just adapt to the reality the person is in, and they are constantly changing as brain cells die, as their behavior and abilities change.”

Larry Hamon, center, dressed in dark blue, participates in the annual Alzheimer’s Walk in San Diego to support San Diegans living with dementia and their caregivers on Saturday, October 16, 2021, at Balboa Park. Hamon’s wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and died in 2015. The 76-year-old team, The Men Remember, raised over $ 40,000 for the event.

(Kristian Carreon / For the San Diego Union-Tribune)

On Saturday, Hamon and The Men Remember fundraising team he co-captained with nearly 1,000 people in Balboa Park to raise money for Alzheimer’s disease in San Diego. Along with their families, the group raised $ 40,565 for the benefit of the local nonprofit, making them the highest paid team in this year’s walk.

In total, Alzheimer’s San Diego raised over $ 412,709 through the walk to fund its free support and education programs for people with dementia and their caregivers.

The event was the first time the organization has hosted an in-person event since the pandemic began in 2020. Hundreds more have signed up to walk virtually from their homes.

Although she said it was a little strange to have a big outdoor event after so many months apart, President and CEO Eugenia Welch said it was great to see so many people come together to support each other on Saturday’s walk.

“When someone has Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, the family may be uncomfortable going to restaurants or other places because they are worried about how the person with dementia could be received, ”Welch said. “But here there is none of that (judgment), you don’t have to worry about it at all.”

A number of attendees at the annual Alzheimer's Walk in San Diego wore butterfly-themed clothing

A number of attendees at the annual Alzheimer’s Walk in San Diego wore butterfly-themed clothing to symbolize hope that one day there will be a cure for dementia.

(Kristian Carreon / For the San Diego Union-Tribune)

While the nonprofit has run virtually all of its classes and educational programs over the past year and a half, it plans to slowly start rolling out in-person and outdoor events next month.

Funds for this campaign come at an important time for Alzheimer’s in San Diego as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic continues to make service delivery more complex. In addition to her immediate need, Welch said, the search for a new location to move into next spring following a recently announced sale of the building in Clairemont in which the association is currently leasing space.

Meanwhile, the number of people with dementia continues to grow, even faster than expected.

In San Diego County, nearly 100,000 seniors are living with various forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, according to this year’s report from Project Alzheimer’s, a county health initiative. That exceeds the initial estimate of 94,000 diagnoses that officials predicted the county would reach nearly a decade from now.

Recent efforts in the county have highlighted the importance of early diagnosis for this incurable disease, as many therapies and treatments for Alzheimer’s disease are most effective when symptoms first set in. Experts say this is especially important for people of color, who are less likely to be diagnosed. or have adequate access to health care for dementia.

One of the Saturday walkers at Balboa Park was Naomi Rogers-Bea, who leads an Alzheimer’s support group through Bayview Baptist Church in Encanto, which has a predominantly black parish. Inspired by friends and family who have lived with dementia, she stressed the importance of having symptoms diagnosed early on.

“There is a lot of information that we are trying to get out into the community to help people not ignore the things they are forgetting,” Rogers-Bea said.

Alzheimer’s San Diego is just one of two county nonprofits supporting the dementia community, both of which held their annual walk this month. Last Saturday, the San Diego and Imperial County Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association hosted their walk, raising $ 285,224 through a similar in-person / virtual hybrid event.


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