The Carleton University Fieldhouse was packed with people walking for memories.
Just under 600 participants turned out for the 17th-annual Walk for Memories in support of the Alzheimer Society of Ottawa and Renfrew County on Sunday, Jan. 27, raising more than $249,000 for the cause.
For one Ottawa family, it was an opportunity to help others experiencing the effects of the disease.
“People just really need to understand you don’t need to be afraid,” said Laurel Leslie, who attended the event with her husband Chris, daughters Morgan and Sarah, mother-in-law Vera, sister-in-law Kathy Underhill and her daughter Emily. All hailing from Orléans, Team Pink came decked out in neon shirts, sparkly hats and hair pieces.
The amount of support available from the Alzheimer Society for families and caregivers is incredible, said Laurel, who volunteers with her husband for the organization.
The Leslies have experienced first-hand the effects of the disease.
“On my side it was my maternal grandmother and her sisters. My mother was her personal caregiver for 20 years,” said Laurel, who works for Nurse Next Door, which helps to improve the quality of life of people who require at-home care services. “We saw how it changed everything.”
Her husband’s father passed away from early onset Alzheimer’s 10 years ago.
“I wish my mom and family members knew the amount of support they could get,” she said. “No one has to do it alone.”
The Sons of Scotland pipe band led the first lap around the large indoor track.
“It looks like a very full house, but there’s always room for more,” said Katimavik resident Tracey Pagé, who helped create the Walk for Memories. “We always said we hoped to be the premiere indoor event. I think it’s there.”
An accountant with Collins Barrow Ottawa LLP in Bells Corners, she came up with the idea when her firm decided to join forces with a charitable organization.
Every year, Collins Barrow is the lead sponsor and a number of employees and retired accountants volunteer their time to co-ordinate the walk.
“We get fantastic support,” said Alta Vista resident Susan Pope, with the Alzheimer Society. “People are getting very passionate about Alzheimer’s disease because it affects a lot of people.”
The Walk for Memories gives people something positive they can do to help, she added.
“It’s our biggest fundraiser of the year,” said Natalie deReiter, with the Alzheimer Society.
All funds raised from the walk support the programs and services offered by the Alzheimer Society.
“The success of events like this will make a huge impact on the work that we do,” said Ottawa South resident Debbie Seto, spokeswoman for the Alzheimer Society. “The sheer number of participants doing the walk right now is amazing.”
The Walk for Memories raised $249,000 as of Jan. 28 – up from $202,000 last year – with 592 people and 76 teams taking part in this year’s event. Donations received on or before Feb. 28 will be added to this year’s total.
“We’re truly grateful for all their support,” said Seto. “And the winners (are the) families living with dementia.”
For more information on the Alzheimer Society, visit alzheimer-ottawa-rc.org.