RADFORD, Va.- Every 68 seconds, someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. There are five million people living with the disease right now. By the year 2025, there will be as many as 16 million affected by the disease. For Mary Pat Hanson, the Walk to End Alzheimer’s is more than just raising money for a good cause; it’s about opening people’s eyes to the epidemic that Alzheimer’s disease has become.
Radford University’s co-ed business fraternity Alpha Kappa Psi’s Omicron Sigma worked with Hanson, the Alzheimer’s Association’s Central and Western Virginia Chapter’s Walk Director, to host an on-campus third party walk for the Alzheimer’s Association’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Hanson worked as a paralegal for 30 years before becoming involved with the Alzheimer’s Association. Her mother, who passed away in July 2010, suffered from Alzheimer’s disease for almost 13 years. Hanson said that her passion to spread awareness on Alzheimer’s disease is driven by her mother’s memory. She wished that she had known more about the disease so that she might have given her mother a better quality of life before her death.
“She spent the last four months crying for “her mommy” because she didn’t know anybody or anything,” said Hanson. “That’s a horrible thing to watch. “
Heart-wrenching experiences like Hanson’s happen every day. Senior Christine LaBelle said that when AKPsi decided to take on the walk as their philanthropy event, she knew they were doing the right thing. Hanson was contacted by LaBelle and senior Nichole Smith to come talk to AKPsi about the Walk to End Alzheimer’s.
“Mary Pat asked our fraternity who had been affected by Alzheimer’s and almost 90% of the fraternity raised their hands,” said LaBelle.
Smith is one of the many people whose families were directly affected by Alzheimer’s disease. LaBelle said that working alongside Smith was a great experience because of Smith’s drive to make a change. Smith hopes to possibly have a future working with the Alzheimer’s Association after graduating this spring.
LaBelle and Smith worked together with their brothers and Hanson for the last few weeks to advertise the walk to the RU community, friends and families. LaBelle said that Hanson was a great help throughout the preparations for the walk. AKPsi began raising money for the cause mid-February. The fraternity’s chapter’s goal was to raise $5,000; in the matter of 26 days they went from $745 in donations to $4,275 the morning of the walk.
On the day of the walk, participants filled the common area outside of the Bonnie Hurlburt Student Center. AKPsi’s chapter advisor deejayed the event and his upbeat mix corresponded perfectly with the gorgeous weather to create a positive atmosphere for everyone participating in the walk. Members from the seven different Panhellenic organizations also joined the walkers in support of AKPsi. Smith, LaBelle and Hanson made sure everything ran smoothly as the 250-300 walkers got in place, after registering, to begin the walk.
Participants walked a mile around RU’s campus and once they arrived back to their starting point, the grand total of donations was presented in the form of a faux check by Smith, LaBelle and Hanson. Over $300 was donated the day of the walk which brought the grand total of funds raised to $4,600.
The Walk to End Alzheimer’s event at RU showed that when someone has a passion for something, anything can be accomplished. AKPsi contributed to a cause that still needs major help but after this walk, a good amount of people can walk away with a bit more knowledge of the disease. As for Hanson, some awareness has been brought to RU but there is still many more places to spread the word to.
At the end of the day, it’s like Hanson said.
“I don’t want other families to have to go through what I went through.”