Carly Eversole, [email protected].
Sweetwater County, Wyoming – Ominous clouds rolled over Sweetwater County on the night of August 26, 2022, threatening to dampen a beautiful Wyoming evening. For the crowd of people that had gathered at Evers Park in Green River, this was not going to stop them from participating in the evening’s fundraiser event. Community members of all ages and backgrounds came out to support the Walk to End Alzheimer’s beginning at 5:30 p.m. Music by Dave and Carol Pedri echoed out from under the patio at the park, Searle brothers construction barbequed food, and booths were set up for information, raffles, and fundraising efforts. There were even fun games set up at a table for people to play. Despite the severity of the disease, the air at the event was light, people were smiling and laughing with one another, and hope could be coined as the theme of the evening.
According to resources provided at the information booth, Alzheimer’s affects more than 5 million Americans, the most common form of dementia. Nearly 10 percent of those affected by the disease are over the age of 65 and one-third of those older than 85. Currently, there is a variety of medications to help alleviate symptoms of the disease but no cure, no stopping it. However, thanks to fundraising efforts such as the walk at Evers Park, new information is being discovered every day. Alzheimer’s disease is at the forefront of biomedical research with 90% of what we know today, discovered in the last 20 years.
Much of the information regarding the disease given to Wyo4news was provided by Kelly Morgan, the developmental manager for the Alzheimer’s Association Wyoming Chapter. Morgan’s function within the chapter is to facilitate walks like the one that night and provide resources to locals wishing to host a fundraiser. Walks, just like the one in Green River, take place all over the state of Wyoming, the next one being the following morning in Gillette. The host and driving force of the walk at Evers Park was Susie Von Ahrens.
From scheduling the date, setting up carnival games, and arranging for food and entertainment, Von Ahrens and her team Marilyn Docktor, Ruth, and Delynn Mann made the entire evening possible with the help of Morgan at the state level. Kay Womack was manning the raffle ticket booth for items available to win, and a list of sponsors that contributed was printed on the back of the t-shirts available for donation purchase. The table where Morgan was stationed had purple swag and information regarding the disease available as well.
The walk had two routes available for participants. They could go either down the Greenbelt or around the Island. Walkers could carry a “promise flower” with them as they walked. Each flower was a different color representing the reason for walking – orange was for supporting the cause of a world without Alzheimer’s, yellow for caregivers and support people, purple for those who have lost someone to the disease, and finally blue for someone living with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. After the walk concluded, a flower ceremony took place at the park where food was served.
Vonahrens has a deep personal connection with the event and knows all too well the importance of fundraisers such as this. She spoke with Wyo4news about how the disease has directly affected her family. She has lost a grandmother, two aunts, and an uncle to Alzheimer’s while her father currently battles the disease. The event has occurred annually for the last four years with nearly 80 participants at this year’s walk raising over 10,000 to help support the cause.