SIDNEY – When she was just 13 years old, and her grandmother could no longer remember her name, Ava Grudich formed a Walk to End Alzheimer’s team to join the fight against the disease.
Grudich, now a 17-year-old senior at Fort Loramie High School, leads Bootscoot’n Boogie in the Shelby County Walk to End Alzheimer’s. The team is named for her grandma Ruth Ann “Boots” Meyer, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when Grudich was 7 years old.
“Around the time that I was 13 was when she couldn’t remember my name or she didn’t really know who I was,” Grudich said. “So then once Mom told me that idea (to start a Walk to End Alzheimer’s team), I was like, ‘Yes, we need to do this.’”
Grudich, the daughter of Chris and Jen Grudich, has been the captain of Bootscoot’n Boogie since the team was formed.
Her group has become one of the most successful in the Shelby County Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Last year Bootscoot’n Boogie raised $9,175, the second most of any Shelby County team, and in 2018 it led all Shelby County teams with $3,165 raised.
“With the whole community contributing it really helps us,” Grudich said.
Bootscoot’n Boogie has had 25 to 30 team members, which includes Grudich’s immediate and extended family plus some family friends. They’ve hosted basket raffles, a queen of hearts drawing, a garage sale and a bake sale to boost their fundraising.
Grudich hopes her efforts and the efforts of the more than 600 Walk to End Alzheimer’s events throughout the United States will lead to a breakthrough in the fight against the disease.
“I really hope that before any of my aunts or my mom gets it that we have a cure, at least a way to slow it down,” Grudich said.
Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, a disease that affects more than 5 million Americans. Alzheimer’s, the most common cause of dementia and the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., slowly destroys memory, thinking, behavioral skills and social skills.
Grudich said it was really hard to watch Alzheimer’s take its toll on her grandmother, who died in November 2019.
“It was really hard, especially the last two years because you couldn’t even really hold a conversation with her,” she said. “So if I would go to visit, I would just kind of sit and tell her how my day was going but I wouldn’t expect a comment back from her.”
The Walk to End Alzheimer’s is the world’s largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research.
This year’s events will be different compared to past years as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of gathering together with hundreds of people, individuals and small groups are encouraged to walk in their neighborhoods.
“The walk is the No. 1 awareness and fundraising event that we have in the association,” said Karen Carter, vice president of development for the Alzheimer’s Association Miami Valley Chapter. “Around the country we usually have 600 walks, and all 600 are happening, just in a different capacity.”
The Shelby County Walk to End Alzheimer’s will be held Saturday, beginning with a virtual opening ceremony. Walkers will be able to use the Walk to End Alzheimer’s app to track their steps, upload photos and share their experiences as they participate wherever they may be.
“Just because we can’t be together doesn’t mean we can’t be out walking for what we care about, walking to create awareness,” Carter said.
The Promise Garden Ceremony, which Carter described as the marquee event of the day, will be hosted virtually as well. There will be a drive-by Promise Garden from noon-3 p.m. Saturday at the Shelby County Courthouse.
The majority of funds from the Shelby County Walk to End Alzheimer’s will stay in the Miami Valley with some going to the Alzheimer’s Association’s international research initiative. There are more than 30,000 people living with Alzheimer’s disease in the Miami Valley.
The Miami Valley Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association serves Champaign, Clark, Darke, Greene, Logan, Miami, Montgomery, Preble and Shelby counties. Throughout the year the chapter provides education and support to those facing Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
Grudich said it’s inspiring to see so many people coming together to raise money to help in the fight against Alzheimer’s.
“Just going to the Sidney walks and hearing how much our county raised is like incredible,” she said. “And so if you multiply that by all the other walks, it’s a pretty high number.”
For more information about Shelby County’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s or to register, visit https://bit.ly/3iidgwM. The Alzheimer’s Association Miami Valley Chapter can be reached by phone at 937-291-3332.
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