Every 67 seconds across the United States, someone develops Alzheimer’s disease; women in their 60s are about two times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s than breast cancer; Alzheimer’s kills more people than breast and prostate cancer combined; and across Western New York, it is estimated that close to 55,000 people have Alzheimer’s. As frightening as those numbers are, experts with the Alzheimer’s Association predict they will get even worse. By the year 2050, Alzheimer’s disease will likely jump from being the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. to the third, with the number of people diagnosed expected to triple, and costs for their care calculated to soar to $1.2 trillion.

But there is hope, and it can be found in the offices of the Alzheimer’s Association WNY Chapter at 2805 Wehrle Drive, Suite 6, in Williamsville.

“The staff at the Chapter, and all the programs and services they offered to me...it was like the sun appearing after a storm.” John Asaro was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease about 18 months ago. He and his wife Eileen have benefitted from some of the programs and services offered at the Chapter, programs like support groups for caregivers, social programs for those with dementia, and educational classes that cover information about the disease and other pertinent topics.

These programs are all offered for free, but the only way the Chapter can continue to provide these vital services is through fundraising. “The Association receives very little government funding, so donations are critical to our work.” Leilani Pelletier is the Executive Director of the WNY Chapter. “Our major fundraiser each year is the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, which is a joyful, family-friendly event we organize across the Western New York region.”

This year, Walks are scheduled in six communities:

• Chautauqua Institution and Canal Basin Park in Medina - September 6

• Delaware Park in Buffalo (free parking and free Zoo admission after Walk) - September 20

• Batavia and Lewiston – September 27

• Warsaw Village Park - October 4

“It is heart-warming to see how these communities have embraced the Walk! I think our participants understand that they are taking a big step in helping us end this terrible disease and they are very passionate about it,” says Pelletier.

Registered participants who raise $100 earn a Walk tee shirt, but there are no minimum fundraising goals. Many individuals and teams engage in a friendly competition to see who can come up with the most creative ideas for raising funds and raising the most money.

The Walk, though, is more than that. A key component is the opening ceremony honoring those impacted by Alzheimer’s. All registered Walkers receive a vinyl pinwheel flower. They are available in four colors, representing a very personal reason why people Walk:

• blue – I have Alzheimer’s or dementia

• yellow – I am a caregiver

• purple – I lost someone to this disease

• orange – I support the work of the Alzheimer’s Association and its mission to end Alzheimer’s

The flowers are “planted” in the Promise Garden at each Walk site, often with hand-written notes of remembrance or encouragement. The Garden is a visual representation of the promise to remember, to honor, to care and to fight Alzheimer’s disease.

Registration is open to everyone, and the process is simple: visit www.alz.org/WNY or call 1.800.272.3900. The Chapter has plenty of marketing materials to help with recruiting team members and raising funds.

The Chapter is also a great resource for information about Alzheimer’s and dementia, to seek guidance in providing the best caregiving, and to learn more about the on-going research aimed at preventing, slowing and curing this fatal disease. Visitors are always welcome at the Chapter at 2805 Wehrle Drive, Suite 6 (at the corner of Harris Hill) in Williamsville, and the toll-free Helpline phone number is staffed around-the-clock by trained and compassionate professionals: 1.800.272.3900.