Walk to End Alzheimer's Planning Committee

The local Walk to End Alzheimer’s planning committee is looking for new members to bring enthusiasm, ideas and networking connections to the event. The group, which is heavy with members who live in the Washington area, is especially interested in adding members from other parts of Franklin County, as well as Gasconade and Crawford counties, which are included in the Walk’s reach. The next meeting is Wednesday, March 27, at 6 p.m. at John G’s in Downtown Washington. Submitted Photo.

The year Carol Marquart joined the Walk to End Alzheimer’s committee is the year her mother died from the disease. Her family had created a team, Total Recall, to walk in the annual event the year before, but with her mom’s passing, Marquart, who has served as Walk co-chair since 2013, was motivated to do even more.

“I felt the need to do something,” she said. “At that time, there wasn’t much awareness of this devastating disease in this area. Because of the help my family and I had from the Alzheimer’s Association, getting involved with the Walk gave me a way to help other caretakers learn how to cope and care for their loved ones.”

The Alzheimer’s website, www.alz.org, and 24-hour helpline, 800-272-3900, were great resources to Marquart and her family, and she wanted to contribute as much as she could not only to the funds needed to make those possible, but also to getting the word out that they are available.

Many families who have a loved one diagnosed with Alzheimer’s are unaware of the services the Alzheimer’s Association provides, said James Schuenemeyer, Walk director at the Alzheimer’s Association. In addition to raising money for research and finding a cure, the Alzheimer’s Association offers help for caretakers and promotes awareness of the disease.

This year’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s, set for Saturday, Sept. 7, in Washington beginning at the park pavilion on High Street next to the city pool, is still months away, but planning begins now. The first meeting will be held Wednesday, March 27, at 7 p.m. at John G’s Taproom in Downtown Washington.

Anyone interested in joining the committee to organize the 2019 Walk is welcome to attend, said Schuenemeyer, noting he is especially interested in bringing more people from Gasconade and Crawford counties to the table, as well as more people from areas of Franklin County outside of Washington.

The Walk that’s held in Washington represents three counties — Franklin, Gasconade and Crawford — but currently the committee is heavy with people from Washington, said Schuenemeyer. The best way to grow the Walk and do more for Alzheimer’s research and services to families is to bring in new volunteers.

Sally Edler agreed. She joined the committee three years ago after having a family team in the Walk the year before. Edler’s daughter joined her on the committee the following year.

“The more people we have on the committee, the more ideas there are, the more connections, and that’s always good,” Edler remarked.

There are no requirements to join the committee. You don’t have to have had a loved one diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, although that seems to be the driving factor for most people.

“Most of us (on the committee) have been affected by Alzheimer’s in some way, shape or form, so that just makes their heart that much more into it, because you can relate to what this is all about and what the fundraising is all for,” said Sue Ewing, Clover Bottom, who has been involved with the Walk for about five years as part of the Patsy’s Prayer Partners team.

Katie Schonaerts, Washington, who joined the committee last year as a financial adviser with Edward Jones, the Walk’s national presenting sponsor, and someone who has had several relatives diagnosed with Alzheimer’s over the years, described the people she met there “like a support group, because so many members have known someone with the disease.”

She recommends others who have struggled with having a loved one diagnosed consider joining the committee for that same reason. It’s a great place to channel that emotion, because others on the committee have gone through the same thing, said Schonaerts.

‘Fighting in Mom’s Name and For Others’

Members of Patsy’s Prayer Partners walk in memory of Ewing’s mom, Patsy Lause, who passed away two years ago.

“Mom is the reason we got involved in all of this, but her siblings had the disease as well, so we decided it was a cause that needed research money, and we actually started doing fundraising when my mom was alive and dealing with the disease,” said Ewing.

To date, Patsy’s Prayer Partners has raised more than $30,000 for the Alzheimer’s Association. The team of about 20 people holds an annual barbecue with raffle items that bring in more than $10,000 a year now with a one-day event.

“As a family, you come together in support of someone you love, everybody does a little bit, and we do a one-day event and raise that kind of money,” said Ewing. “You don’t have to beg, because people want to give and help with this cause.”

The family and team stay motivated because they see the results ­— progress being made in research.

“That makes it even more rewarding,” Ewing remarked. “It’s been a very good thing for us all to pull together and fight for something too. It just kind of keeps that flame of my mom continuing on. Even though she’s not here to continue, we are still fighting in her name for all those who have to deal with it.”

Janice Mantle, Union, joined the Walk committee four years ago after having had a team named Charlie’s Angels in memory of her father, Charlie Ballmann, since 2008.

“I showed up for one of the meetings just to check out what they did, see if there was something I could help with, and then I just joined,” said Mantle.

Her team had typically only raised a few hundred dollars each year, primarily by asking family and friends to make donations. Last year, the team decided to dig deeper and organized a couple of fundraisers which resulted in collecting nearly $10,000.

The most successful fundraiser was a black-light bingo held at the VFW Hall in Washington. It brought in $3,500.

Mantle said organizing a fundraiser wasn’t a requirement of being on the committee, but she and her team just felt inspired to do it. And being on the committee gave her access to a network of people with ideas, advice and guidance to help her create a successful event.

Edler noted that her team doesn’t organize a big fundraiser, but rather she gets permission to stand outside of a local grocery store collecting donations. It’s a simple approach that demands time, but not a lot of planning or work. Most donations are small, anywhere from loose change to $20, but it’s also a great way to share information about what the Alzheimer’s Association does, said Edler, noting many people stop to talk with her about their experience.

Edler’s team, the Bayer Cubs, named in honor of her father whose last name is Bayer, also puts a post on Facebook asking for donations. Last year the team raised almost $4,000.

Fun, Enthusiastic Bunch

Fun is the word committee members use to describe the group and their monthly planning meetings, which they all stressed are kept to a firm one hour.

“If you want to stay around later and visit with people you can, but the meetings are well-run as far as addressing the things we need to address, things that still need to be done,” said Edler. “But it’s just a fun group, and everybody is willing to help out.”

And it’s not necessarily just for outgoing people, Edler added.

“We do have some very outgoing and well-connected people, and they do really well,” she said, “but we also have some more reserved people, and they do well also. They have a lot to contribute. It takes all kinds of people to make the Walk successful.”

Marquart pointed out that the Walk committee is made up of core members and other volunteers who are able to contribute as much or as little time as their schedule allows.

“Just coming to the monthly meetings with suggestions would be helpful,” said Marquart.

Schonaerts said she appreciates that kind of freedom to contribute whatever level of involvement is comfortable.

“There are people who do things like post signs to direct people during the Walk, and there are people who organize fundraisers and events,” she said. “Lots of people just jump in and before you know it, it’s all set up. Many hands make light work. Everyone just jumps in.

“And it’s not really work, because it’s more like just supporting a cause we all feel strongly about,” said Schonaerts.

She knows the word “committee” might scare people off but they are more like a group of friends working toward a cause they all support.

“We work together and we celebrate each other’s successes,” Schonaerts remarked. “We say the word committee, and immediately you think there are certain tasks and things that are delegated, but it’s more like a planning team, and we divide out the work, and the Alzheimer’s Association staff do a trememdous amount too. It’s more people getting together sharing.”

Anyone who has a passion for helping the Alzheimer’s Association will make a great volunteer for the committee, Schuenemeyer said. In particular, people with experience in marketing and recruiting are ideal.

But equally as important are people from a broader part of the area the Walk serves.

“The committee connects us to the community,” Schuenemeyer said, “so we want more people from more areas with more different backgrounds.”

For the last two years, the Walk has raised $215,000, which makes it one of the highest revenue producing Walks per capita in the United States, said Schuenemeyer, but “we know if we are going to grow this walk and its reach, we need to be able to get to more people outside of Washington.”

Meetings Are Last Wednesday

Meetings are held the last Wednesday of the month, March through August, from 6 to 7 p.m. at John G’s Tap Room in Downtown Washington.

Anyone wanting to attend the meeting and potentially join the committee, are encouraged to call ahead to register. Contact Matthew Bergmann, walk manager, at 636-541-4991 or mbergmann@alz.org.

Walk-ins also are welcome to attend.

For more information, go to www.alz.org. The 24-hour helpline is 1-800-272-3900.