Alzheimer’s Association event draws 600 to Maryville College

More than 600 walkers took to Maryville College campus in an effort stop Alzheimer’s disease during the Foothills Memory Walk Saturday morning, Nov. 20.

Don Heinemann was among those gathered to support the effort. The Blount Memorial Hospital administrator shared why he got involved.

“It is something I care about. I saw the toll it took on my mom taking care of my grandmother for seven years,” he said. “It is affecting more and more people, and it is becoming more and more important. Everyone is touched by Alzheimer’s and if we don’t find a cure, there is a risk of it rising to epidemic proportions.”

Steve West and his son Charles West were on hand to encourage the participants in Steve’s eighth year working with the effort. “One in eight people are touched by the disease,” Steve said. “It’s a terrible, life-ending disease. It is hard on families, and lot of what the Alzheimer’s Association does is helping families deal with it,” he said.

Charles West said the walk is always a good event. “It is always held on a beautiful autumn morning,” Charles said. “We’ve been part of it since they started it.”

WIVK on-air personality and Blount County resident Ted “Gunner” Ousley said the reason he continues to get involved with the Alzheimer’s Association is because they offer support on a consistent basis to families who help loved ones struggling with the disease.

“When we first did this walk, we gave out a phone number for people who might need help, and our request lines were flooded,” Charles said. “These people at the Alzheimer’s Association are there. You don’t call and get an answering machine. There is somebody by the phone. That’s why I stay involved.”

Janice Wade-Whitehead, executive director of the Eastern Tennessee Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, said more than 600 pre-registered for the event.

“It was well-attended. I think we’ve been able to weather this economic downturn because of our relationships with the corporate community, and the fact that much of the money is raised a dollar a time in a grass-roots manner,” she said.

Kay Watson, director of communications/constituent relations, said while final figures for what was raised on the day of the event weren’t available, corporate giving was up 8 percent at $54,700.

So many people showed for the event that Vienna Coffee Co. owner John Clark gave out 20 gallons of coffee. Clark said it was Edward Harper, senior services coordinator with Blount Memorial Hospital, who asked him to be on hand during the walk, and he didn’t hesitate to help. “Both my mom and dad had Alzheimer’s, and this is an organization I support,” he said.

Illinois native Brett Eldredge, a newly-signed Atlantic Records singer, was brought to the walk by WIVK to perform his single “Raymond,” a song he wrote about his own grandmother who struggled with Alzheimer’s disease.

Eldredge said he wrote the song with Brad Crisler three years ago after Eldredge learned his grandmother’s Alzheimer’s disease was getting more severe. “I wrote it as a way to help cope,” he said.

Eldredge’s lead guitar player, Mississippi-native Jamie Michael, said when he heard the single and saw the video, it gave him goosebumps. “It could impact a lot of people for the good,” he said of the song.

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