SIDNEY – Participating in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s gives Courtney Deutsch a sense of control she didn’t have when her father, Charlie Wendeln, battled Alzheimer’s disease.
“It’s very rewarding,” Deutsch said. “Throughout my dad’s battle with Alzheimer’s, he battled for three years, I just often felt helpless. We couldn’t do anything to stop or slow the disease.
“Raising money for the walk allowed us to kind of take back some control.”
Deutsch is the team captain of The Chuck Wagon, a group that has raised more than $8,100 for Shelby County’s 2019 Walk to End Alzheimer’s. The Chuck Wagon is the leading fundraising team for Shelby County’s walk, and Deutsch is the county’s top individual fundraiser, having raised more than $2,600 this year.
“The credit goes to all the people who have helped us get there,” Deutsch said. “We do almost all of our fundraising through personal emails and posts on Facebook. Our friends and family have just been super generous.”
The goal for Shelby County’s 2019 Walk to End Alzheimer’s is to raise $42,000, Coordinator Maire Reynolds said. The majority of the funds stay in the Miami Valley, she said, with some going to the Alzheimer’s Association’s international research initiative.
“We offer a ton of resources for people who are dealing with (Alzheimer’s disease), and we do that at no cost to the individuals,” Reynolds said.
The Miami Valley Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association serves Champaign, Clark, Darke, Greene, Logan, Miami, Montgomery, Preble and Shelby counties. There are more than 30,000 people living with Alzheimer’s disease in the Miami Valley.
“It is rapidly growing,” said Reynolds, whose grandfather died of Alzheimer’s. “It is affecting more people.”
The Walk to End Alzheimer’s is an annual event that takes place in more than 600 communities nationwide. It’s the world’s largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research.
“The walk is a nice event to get together with people who share similar experiences,” Deutsch, a Russia High School graduate who now lives in Oakwood, said. “It’s just a real hopeful event.”
Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia and the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. More than 5 million Americans live with the disease, which slowly destroys memory, thinking, behavioral and social skills.
Deutsch’s father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2013 at the age of 67 and died in 2016.
“It’s a ruthless disease,” Deutsch said. “It was horrible to see him slip away like that.”
Spurred by Charlie Wendeln’s diagnosis, the Wendeln family formed their Walk to End Alzheimer’s team in 2014. The team includes Deutsch; her mother, Kay Wendeln; her brothers, Casey Wendeln, Andy Wendeln and Brady Wendeln; her husband, Eric Deutsch; and Casey’s wife, Lia Wendeln.
The Chuck Wagon – named for Charlie Wendeln’s big gray van that he used to transport his children and neighborhood kids to school and to get ice cream – has participated in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s each year since 2014 either in Sidney or Dayton. The group has raised more than $70,000 the past six years.
“I hesitate to keep asking people each year, but I also know people wouldn’t give if they didn’t believe in the cause,” Deutsch said.
Shelby County’s 2019 Walk to End Alzheimer’s will be held Sept. 21 at the Flanagan Sports Complex, which is located at 650 Riverside Drive in Sidney. It’s a new location for the walk, which Reynolds said will allow people to walk on trails instead of busy streets. The change in location should make the event safer and infuse more energy into it, she said.
“We call it our biggest support group,” Reynolds said of the walk, which she hopes will include 350 people. “They’re coming just to be with other people who understand what they’re going through.”
Registration for Shelby County’s 2019 Walk to End Alzheimer’s will begin at 9 a.m. Sept. 21. The Promise Garden Ceremony, which Reynolds described as the best part of the day, begins at 10 a.m. with the 2 mile walk scheduled for 10:15 a.m.
“People walk for all sorts of reasons,” Reynolds said. “A lot of times it’s unfortunately because they’ve lost someone to the disease.”
Walkers who raise at least $100 will get a T-shirt the day of the event, and all registered walkers will receive a Promise Garden Flower. Blue flowers represent those with Alzheimer’s or dementia, purple flowers represent those who have lost a loved one to the disease, yellow flowers represent those who are supporting or caring for someone with Alzheimer’s, and orange flowers represent everyone who supports the cause and vision of a world without Alzheimer’s.
“It’s just a really impactful day, and it’s a wonderful experience,” Reynolds said.
Throughout the year the Miami Valley Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association provides education and support to those facing Alzheimer’s and other dementias. A support group meets the third Monday of every month at 6 p.m. at the Sidney First United Methodist Church.
Support is needed, especially for primary caregivers who look after their loved ones with dementia, Deutsch said.
“It’s as hard, if not more, on the caregivers,” said Deutsch, whose mother was her father’s primary caregiver when he had Alzheimer’s. “I was quite frankly worried about her well-being as well as my dad’s.”
Along with proving support to those dealing with the effects of Alzheimer’s, both Deutsch and Reynolds hope the money raised through the Walk to End Alzheimer’s will one day lead to a cure.
“Without the Walk to End Alzheimer’s we will never catch up and be able to end the disease,” Reynolds said.
The nonprofit Alzheimer’s Association is the world’s third largest funder of Alzheimer’s research behind only the Chinese and United States governments. Currently treatments can slow the worsening of dementia symptoms and improve quality of life for those with Alzheimer’s, but there is no cure.
“I definitely think they’re on the brink of it,” Deutsch said of finding a cure for Alzheimer’s. “There’s so much research going on. And that’s why we’re doing this, so another generation doesn’t have to suffer through this disease.”
To register or for more information about Shelby County’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s, visit https://bit.ly/2kfx5w8. Reynolds can be contacted at 937-610-7006 or email@example.com.
Reach this writer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 937-538-4824.