Milwaukee's 2021 Walk to End Alzheimer's returns to in-person event at Summerfest grounds

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) --  The Alzheimer's Association hosted its annual Walk to End Alzheimer's, the largest event dedicated to Alzheimer's care, support, and research, at Henry Maier Festival Park Sunday morning, Sept. 19.

After going virtual last year due to the pandemic, the Alzheimer's Association hosted its' annual Walk to End Alzheimer's in-person with health and safety measures in place.

More than six million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease, and in Wisconsin, there are more than 120,000 people affected by it.

Thousands gathered Sunday for this important cause that holds a deep and personal meaning to many attendees.

"I had a grandfather and a father that both had Alzheimer's. This was many years ago and back then they had no idea of really what it was and they just kept getting worse. And I had an idea that probably someday I was going to get it too," said Terry Bierer, a participant of the walk.

Bierer said back then, there weren't as many resources to help his family battling the disease.

Bierer and his wife, Jo, have been married for 45 years and are going through the journey together.

"Terry was originally diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment and then this last spring they told him that he did likely have Alzheimer's so we've been on the journey for a few years now and he has been incredible. He has such a good attitude," said Jo Bierer.

They have gotten a lot of help and support from the Alzheimer's Association ever since Terry was diagnosed.

They did the walk together with their grandchildren by their side.

"I think one of the things that have been so important to me about the Alzheimer's Association is the support I have received. I have a support group that I attend classes with. I don't know where I would be without the association. They became involved about two years ago, and it has been life-changing for us to have the presence of other people who are going through the same," said Bierer.

"We want to make sure that every person has access to our services so that is another reason that we're out here raising awareness and raising funds so we can make sure that every person impacted can get the resources they need," said Amanda Gabert, the Walk to End Alzheimer's director for the Alzheimer's Association Wisconsin chapter.

Attendees created a beautiful sea of purple at the two-mile walk which had sunny weather and views of the Milwaukee skyline as participants walked around Lakeshore Park, bonding over their journey with Alzheimer's. 

Walkers were greeted with superheroes, a drumline, a dance team, and a mariachi at the finish line.

There were also booths with resources for participants. 

This cause has inspired people to help others going through the same journey as Al Castro.

"My father, I was his caregiver. It's still hard to talk about it. He died of Alzheimer's. My mother-in-law, we were co-caregivers with her too, and then one of my uncle's recently also passed away from Alzheimer's so for me it's a personal mission too," said Al Castro, the program director of United Community Center, a multi-service Latino nonprofit in Milwaukee.

Castro says they have partnered with the Alzheimer's Association in a number of ways.

"We opened up our own Latino dementia daycare program and memory clinic called the Latino Geriatric Center. At that time and to this day there are no other memory clinics in Wisconsin that can do screening diagnoses in Spanish. And there are no adult dementia day programs specializing with Latinos. It was something new for us so we partnered with the Alzheimer's Association to help develop the concept," said Castro.

Castro says there are limited resources and programs in Spanish for the Latino/Hispanic community and wants to raise awareness on this and provide more services to the Latino community.

"We know that for Latinos, dementia shows about one and a half times more frequently in the Latino population than it does in the white population. By having our clinics being with Latinos and reflecting their community living, it's easier to get people to bring in their parents who get diagnosed," said Castro.

"His team for the Alzheimer's walk, which included his co-workers, was called 'No Me Olvides', it means 'Don't Forget About Me' in Spanish.

That's why the cause is important to Castro and others to get as many resources and help as possible.

The effort is a big mission that participants are fighting for together in solidarity.

"I'm just trying to get the word out, do as much as I can to get more people to know about it, and raise more money to try to find ways to fight it," said Bierer.

Approximately 1,800 people participated in this year's walk.

The walk is anticipated to raise more than $700,000 to fund research and local services in Milwaukee County.

You can still donate and help the cause.

Donations can be made to the Walk to End Alzheimer’s through Dec. 31 at act.alz.org/Milwaukee


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