Michigan Chapter Walkers — like those pictured here — will return to the Detroit Zoo for the annual Alzheimer’s Association Detroit Walk to End Alzheimer’s this fall.

Michigan Chapter Walkers — like those pictured here — will return to the Detroit Zoo for the annual Alzheimer’s Association Detroit Walk to End Alzheimer’s this fall.

Photo provided by the Alzheimer’s Association

Walkers hope to make strides in battle against Alzheimer’s disease

By: K. Michelle Moran | Metro | Published September 8, 2021

ROYAL OAK — Alzheimer’s disease stole Colton Dale’s chance to get to know his grandfather, who developed it when Dale was very young. What sticks in Dale’s mind is the way his otherwise stoic father reacted to his own father’s deteriorating mental state.

“He would spend a lot of days after work at the nursing home,” Dale, of Grosse Pointe Woods, said of his father, who served as the grandfather’s caregiver. “I think to this day I don’t know the full emotional toll on my dad, but every day, I remember my dad shedding tears when my grandfather didn’t remember his name.”

It’s that heartbreaking memory that inspired Dale, 28, to get involved in the Alzheimer’s Association Detroit Walk to End Alzheimer’s 7-11:30 a.m. Oct. 30 at the Detroit Zoo, in Royal Oak, an event being hosted by media personality Chuck Gaidica. In just the last four years, this event has raised more than $2.8 million for Alzheimer’s and dementia care, research and support.

Kristin Rossi, the vice president of development for the Alzheimer’s Association Michigan Chapter in Southfield, said that they got their largest turnout at the Detroit Zoo in 2018, when they had slightly over 6,000 participants. In 2019, Rossi said, they had 5,360 participants.

“This year, we hope for a good turnout and will be keeping up with the utmost safety measures as outlined by the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and local health officials,” Rossi said by email.

Collin Mays, of West Bloomfield, is the committee chair for the Detroit walk. He said that after having a completely virtual walk in 2020, this year, organizers are allowing walkers to participate in person or virtually, so they can choose the format with which they’re most comfortable. Whether virtually or in person, Mays said, people can walk for as long as they’d like. Funds raised “stay right here in metro Detroit,” he said.

“I’m a huge advocate for trying to find a cure for Alzheimer’s,” Mays said. “I, unfortunately, had two grandparents who had it.”

As a millennial — Mays is 31 — he said he “wants to bring awareness” of this deadly condition to his generation, in particular. The most common form of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease is defined by the National Institute of Aging as “a brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks.”

“It’s a disease that I believe touches everybody, whether now or in the future,” said Mays, noting that Alzheimer’s disease is even more common among African American and Latino people.

There were more than 6 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s in 2021, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, and there were another 11 million friends and relatives providing care to someone suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. According to the CDC, 14 million Americans are projected to be living with Alzheimer’s by 2060. In Michigan, the Alzheimer’s Association says there are, today, more than 190,000 people with Alzheimer’s, and 463,000 caregivers. As of its 2019 mortality table, the National Center for Health Statistics listed Alzheimer’s disease as the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, behind conditions such as heart disease, cancer and strokes.

Dale, who also had a grandmother who died in recent years from dementia, said he hopes to encourage people to take part in the walk.

“It’s a very difficult disease on everybody, but there is research being done and there are advances being made,” Dale said. “It’s a very important cause, and it’s something that touches a lot of lives.”

Participants can register to walk as a team or as individuals, but they’re asked to register by Oct. 1, Mays said. Once someone registers, donors can contribute in their name or team’s name online.

“We’re encouraging people from all walks of life to help bring an end to Alzheimer’s,” Mays said. “It’s a fun activity. Wear comfortable shoes. And wear purple.”

The Alzheimer’s Association chose purple for its signature color because, as they explain, it combines “the calm stability of blue and the passionate energy of red. Purple makes a statement about our Association and our supporters: we are strong and unrelenting in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease.”

Although there are other Walk to End Alzheimer’s events in Michigan, the Royal Oak walk is the only one in metro Detroit. To register or for more information, visit https://act.alz.org.