The Walk for Memories in support of the Alzheimer Society of Ottawa and Renfrew County came about 17 years ago thanks to a Katimavik woman and a Nepean business.
Tracey Pagé, an accountant with Collins Barrow Ottawa LLP in Bells Corners, developed the idea of the fundraising walk. The firm created a committee to choose a charity it could work with.
“We talked about wanting to give back,” she said. “(To) try to align ourselves with a charity we could really, really give to.”
Her grandfather had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in the ’80s and at that time, it wasn’t a widely-known disease, she said.
“I’d never even heard the word before that,” said Pagé of the diagnosis.
At the time, the Ottawa Alzheimer’s Society had no government funding so when Collins Barrow decided to join forces with a charitable organization, Pagé suggested they work with the Ottawa chapter.
“They had to purely work on the donations. It was such a small budget,” she said. “They were trying to do so much with so little. I had seen the good they do.”
So she set up a meeting with then executive director Kathy Wright and developed the idea of a fundraising walk.
That first walk, back in 1996, raised $22,000 with 175 participants.
“It was a lot of fun; it was a lot of work but we considered it a success,” said Pagé, who has been on the Walk committee since the beginning.
“As a volunteer and with support from Tracey’s co-workers and backing of her employer, she led the initiative and the Walk for Memories started in 1996,” said Debbie Seto, spokesperson for the Alzheimer Society of Ottawa and Renfrew County.
The event is held annually on the last Sunday in January at the conclusion of Alzheimer Awareness Month.
Every year, Collins Barrow is the lead sponsor and a number of employees and retired accountants volunteer their time to co-ordinate the walk.
“It’s a great, great group of people,” said Pagé. “Volunteers come year after year. They really enjoy seeing the good that’s done.
“The firm jumps in with both feet to really, really try and support the Alzheimer’s Society.”
All the money raised stays in the community to fund programs and respite care offered by the Alzheimer’s Society.
“The funds are raised to support their programs and give the support to families that need it,” said Pagé. “I had seen how important respite care was.”
This year’s walk will take place on Jan. 27, inside the Carleton University Fieldhouse. Registration begins at 9 a.m. with a warm-up at 10 a.m. followed by the walk.
Pagé said hosting an indoor walk during the winter helps set the fundraiser apart from the traditional outdoor summer walks.
“The day itself we just really try to make fun,” said Pagé. “(Teams) usually have a theme and to see them marching around as a group with so much spirit, usually they’re inspired by someone.”
Five walking challenges from one to 10 kilometres are available. There will be music, a kids’ activity centre and refreshments, free parking, and “a few surprises,” said Pagé.
For the second year, the Sons of Scotland pipe band will lead the first lap around the track.
“It’s a really nice tradition,” said Pagé. “We’ve always had, since year one, a bagpiper lead the first lap.”
The Walk for Memories first began in the Carlingwood Shopping Centre, but four years ago moved to Carleton University because the number of participants grew too large.
“We always like to see our numbers grow. That’s our biggest goal,” said Pagé. “What started off as a really small event is turning into a well known city-(wide) fundraising event.”
Back in 1998, Pagé participated in the walk while she was nine months pregnant.
“… All of us were convinced her baby was going to be born at the event,” said Seto. “(It was) a memorable moment for us who have been around for awhile.”
Her son was born less than a week later on Jan. 31.
“It was a lot of fun; it was cute,” said Pagé, adding her two sons have been participating in the walk since they were born. “They’ve gone every year.”
There is no registration fee to participate, but walkers are asked to raise a minimum donation of $100. There will be a special draw for anyone raising $1,000 or more on or before Jan. 27 for a chance to win two airline tickets to any destination served by Porter Airlines.
For more information, or to register, visit walkformemories.ca.