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Saint Mary’s hosts annual Memory Walk

By CAITLYN HOUSLEY | Sunday, October 3, 2010

Saint Mary’s was a sea of purple Sunday as it hosted the Alzheimer’s Association’s annual Memory Walk.

This was Saint Mary’s second year hosting the event. Community members, students and faculty gathered in order to raise awareness for Alzheimer’s Disease, a brain disorder that destroys cells and leads to memory loss and death. According to Michael Sullivan, the director of Public Policy and Advocacy of Indiana’s Alzheimer’s Association, this year’s event attracted more walkers than last year, gathering around 150 people.

“Alzheimer’s was declared the sixth leading cause of death,” Sullivan said. “Even if a cure cannot be found, just slowing the progress of the disease will be beneficial.”

Sullivan is a strong supporter of raising awareness, as well as advocacy for federal funding of Alzheimer’s treatment.

The course of the Memory Walk ran throughout Saint Mary’s campus.

“I always teach my children that education is key. It is the one thing that cannot be taken away from you.” Regional Director Melissa Barile said. “No. We are all wrong. Alzheimer’s can take all of our education — no matter when we learned it — away from us.”

For this reason, Barile stressed raising awareness and funding for Alzheimer’s research is just as vital as education of the disease.

“My biggest hope is that [the event] does raise awareness. I’ve been working with the Association for many years now and have visited many places, but each time it’s like I’ve just begun,” Barile said. “Awareness needs to increase. Education, education, education and support are key.”

Sullivan said he hoped the event would raise awareness about the Association, as well. It provides educational services, support groups, a 24-hour help line and more, all free of charge. The Association is the largest support group of the disease nationally and internationally.

Many Saint Mary’s students gathered to help provide support and to remember loved ones who had the disease.

Juniors Jessica Cross and Laura Wilkerson walked to remember their grandmothers.

“I used to always do this with my family, but it’s my first time walking in South Bend,” Cross said. “It’s so nice to see a good turn out.”

Joi Pugh, a Saint Mary’s sophomore, walked to remember her great-grandmother.

“I’m walking to raise awareness. It’s my first time participating in the Memory Walk, and I’m very excited,” Pugh said. “I posted it to my Facebook, and I even signed up my roommate to walk with me.”

Barile said she hopes to see the event grow bigger and bigger every year.

“If you could see the impact of the disease on the family — the children, grandchildren, no matter the age group, you would see just how many lives this disease affects and why it is so important to raise awareness now,” she said.