While there seems to be no end in sight for the coronavirus, 2021 was a good year in terms of gains made to subdue another health menace, Alzheimer’s disease, including a promising drug emerging.
“More people are becoming aware and more people are getting involved,” said Pamela Padgett, who is helping to spearhead efforts in Surry County addressing the debilitating condition affecting 6.2 million Americans.
This included Padgett’s co-chairing of the annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s held at Riverside Park in Mount Airy on Sept. 18, with Robin Portis, and other efforts to generate funds needed for the fight and bring attention to the issue.
“As the year comes to an end and the last of the fundraising that supports our local walk is ending, we are in awe of all the awareness and funds that have been raised,” added Padgett.
She is human resources director for Behavioral Services Inc. in Mount Airy, and like many people has lost someone to Alzheimer’s — a grandmother, Mae Holt, in 2018 — which has motivated her to get involved in efforts to find a cure.
Although the walk was held in December as a major fundraising effort for that cause with the help of teams, money has continued to be generated as 2021 comes to a close.
“Our final total for the year is $77,582,” Padgett reported Wednesday, which she said is a record sum.
“This total speaks to the dedication to end Alzheimer’s,” she observed. “To still be in a pandemic and be able to raise this much money is phenomenal.”
A true team effort
After the annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s was conducted on a virtual basis in 2020 — because of COVID — but returned to normal in a big way.
“This year we had 66 teams, which is the most teams in the history of our local walk and had 368 participants, which also was a record-breaking number,” Padgett mentioned regarding the event. It is held in conjunction with the Western Carolina Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.
The individual teams — of businesses, families, churches and civic groups — conducted mini-campaigns that added up to the total, with one involving G & B Energy (captained by Natalie Eidson) leading the way by generating $11,000.
Other top teams were fielded by the RidgeCrest retirement community, which raised $9,468 under the leadership of Jennifer Johnson-Brown; The A Team led by Robin Portis, the co-chair of the walk, which raised $6,003; Memories of Mae, led by Padgett in generating $4,231; and Team Phil, (captained by Vickie Jordan), $3,170.
“All the teams in our walk did a wonderful job of not only fundraising, but raising awareness,” Badgett emphasized.
“Many people do Facebook fundraisers to raise funds for their teams — this makes it so easy to participate and this accounts for a big increase in dollars donated.”
More than walking
As is the case with any such campaign, more than just a single event such as a walk is required, with keeping the issue before the public in a variety of ways also needed.
This was true in 2021 for the local Alzheimer’s disease efforts, which also included a Paint the Town Purple campaign during the summer. “Purple is the official color of Alzheimer’s,” Padgett explained.
Stores in downtown Mount Airy displayed windows decorated in purple as part of a contest to generate awareness, accompanied by some merchants launching fundraisers.
First place went to F. Rees, second to The Spotted Moon, third to Fabric Menagerie and fourth, Mayberry Primitives.
“Even though they were not on Main Street, Dr. John Gravitte’s office did a phenomenal display to raise awareness, had a team in the walk and was also a sponsor (of that event),” Padgett noted.
RidgCrest further features a lighted Christmas display annually as a fundraiser.
“The beauty of its lights sends a message of hope for anyone who is associated with Alzheimer’s whether it be a patient, a caregiver, family member or an advocate,” Padgett mentioned.
“We are so thankful that they have chosen to do this every year.”
Meanwhile, local advocates also had floats in both the Fourth of July and Christmas parades in downtown Mount Airy.
The money raised aids care, support and research programs of the Alzheimer’s Association.
This includes a variety of services gearing toward disease sufferers and their families, including its 24/7 Helpline at https://www.alz.org/help-support/i-have-alz/programs-support#helpline, educational programs, support groups and more.
On the research side of things, Padgett said definite progress occurred during 2021 in the form of a new drug that came on the market in June. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted accelerated approval to Aduhelm (aducanumab) for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
Padgett said this is the first drug available to slow its progression.
“I think that was a good outcome of all the years of research,” she said of proof that financial support does make a difference. “I think that was the highlight of the year.”
In May, Padgett also addressed members of Congress, via video conferencing, to lobby for federal legislation to advance research and enhance treatment and support services for those living with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.
She is heartened by so many facets of this community joining to tackle a terrible disease that has affected everyone to some degree through family members or friends being afflicted.
The includes a growing array of sponsors: Behavioral Services, Surry Communications, Carolina West, Surry Insurance, Altec, Carport Central, First Presbyterian Church of Mount Airy, Home Instead, Northern Regional Hospital, Hugh Chatham Hospital, Kindred at Home, Cardinal CT, J.G. Coram Construction, Dr John Gravitte, Hayco Construction, Nester Hosiery, Rogers Realty, SouthData, Surry-Yadkin Electric Membership Corp. and Wayne Farms.
“We are grateful to our community for all their support,” Padgett summed-up in closing out 2021, which she believes was a positive period both locally and for the Alzheimer’s Association overall.
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