Photo by WJFW Newswatch 12
Annual Walk to End Alzheimer's attracts more than 200 participants
Story By Lilly Zoller
Local News Published 09/18/2021 3:16PM, Last Updated 09/19/2021 4:13PM
Rhinelander - Today was the annual Walk to End Alzheimer's in Rhinelander. 225 participants gathered at Mike Webster Stadium to raise money and awareness for the disease.
"I've been walking for close to 15 years," said Diane Van Landingham, a facilitator for the Alzheimer's Support Group.
Van Landingham isn't just a walking participant. She also runs a support group after her own brush with Alzheimer's.
"My dad had Alzheimer's, so that's what inspired me to begin with, and now my mom is in the nursing home with dementia," said Van Landingham.
More than 6 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer's, according to the Alzheimer's Association. That statistic has only worsened with the COVID-19 pandemic, which has increased Alzheimer's-related deaths.
"Alzheimer's is a disease that leaves so many people feeling very isolated and very alone, and when they come to the event and they see hundreds of other people who have been impacted and touched by the disease, I think it inspires them," said Julie St. Pierre, a community outreach specialist for the Alzheimer's Association Wisconsin Chapter.
This chance to be together was all the more meaningful after the pandemic stood in the way last year. Whatever brought people out, participants showed excitement at the chance to walk in honor of those who mean the most to them.
"We all can relate to what's going on today. We've either had a mom or dad or a grandpa or a great-grandpa that had the disease, so it's family," said Van Landingham.
Those with sick loved ones say having a support group like this one is crucial. It's supportive programs and groups of people that keep them going.
"It'll be three years ago in January…my mother-in-law went into Friendly Village here in Rhinelander. It's just been my passion and my goal to raise as much money as possible," said Teena Medick.
The money raised supports programs and services right here in the Northwoods.
"It's just amazing because we could not be here in the community providing the services that we do without the support that we have," said St. Pierre.
St. Pierre is looking forward to continuing and improving these community services with the $75,000 raised by this event.