GRAND BLANC TWP. — Every September since 2015, Mitzi Forrest has set aside a day to put on a purple T-shirt and walk.
The Grand Blanc Township woman walks to honor the memory of her mom, Margaret “Marie” Forrest, as well as her aunt and uncle. She walks to honor her brother, and everyone else who has battled or is battling Alzheimer’s Disease.
This year, Forrest walked in Grand Blanc, as the COVID-19 pandemic upended plans for the usual Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Genesee County. On a normal year, the walk would have drawn some 500 participants. This year, walkers were urged to hit the streets solo or in small groups, and to walk through their neighborhoods, on tracks, or along trails.
“One of the advantages of this year’s walk being everywhere is that it gives individuals and teams the opportunity to choose a route that is meaningful to them,” said Kristin Copenhaver, Alzheimer’s Association communications director.
The Walk to End Alzheimer’s raises money for care, support and advocacy for Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers, and research into more effective treatments, in hopes of one day finding a cure.
“Alzheimer’s hasn’t stopped amid the pandemic,” said Copenhaver. “In fact, the number of people living with the disease increases every day. The pandemic has changed how we walk to keep our communities safe, but it doesn’t change the reasons why we walk.”
Nationally, more than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease – the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. In addition, more than 16 million family members and friends provide care to people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, according to the association. In Michigan alone, there are more than 190,000 people living with the disease and 518,000 caregivers.
“I lost my mother to the disease in 2015,” said Forrest. “So, I joined the walk that year. The next year, I joined the walk committee. In 2017, I took on the title of mission chair for the Genesee County walk.
“I helped take care of my mom all my life. I wasn’t prepared (for the challenges of caring for an Alzheimer’s patient). I don’t know if anyone could be. I don’t know that I’d be prepared if I had to do it again, even though I’ve done it. I didn’t know about the resources, so I never reached out to the organizations. I just did my best to just care for her and love her.”
Forrest has raised about $2,500 so far this year. She expects that by the end of the year, she and her team, Granny’s Go Getters, will be able to donate about $8,500 to the cause. Much of the funding has come from a can and bottle drive that brought in more than 40,000 returnable containers.
Despite the best efforts of the association and volunteers, only about $77,500 of the $115,000 goal for Genesee County has been raised, Forrest said.
“Like many organizations, (COVID) had a big impact to us,” she said.
Anyone wishing to donate may do so at act.alz.org/walk. The website provides links to individual walks and walkers.