The Sun News

Q&A with Marty Gardner

Residence: Macon

Event Chair, 2016 Walk to End Alzheimer’s Central Georgia

Q: When is this year’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s?

A: Ours is a little over a month away on Sept. 24, so there’s time for folks to register to walk, create teams to walk and help us raise money to end Alzheimer’s.

Q: Where will it be?

A: Just south of Perry at The Retreat at Southern Bridal Farms. It’s at the intersection of U.S. 41 and Ga. 26, just a little west of I-75 at Exit 127. Our goal is 500 walkers, there were about 410 last year. We want 100 teams but we’d love to double that.

Q: The money you raise, where does it go?

A: First of all, there are three main ways it’s used: to provide care and support to those facing Alzheimer’s, to drive research toward treatment, prevention and ultimately a cure and to advocate for the rights and needs of people affected by Alzheimer’s. As far as research, altogether our Alzheimer’s fundraising provides more than $350 million to over 2,300 scientific proposals. From the walk, we send money to the state Alzheimer’s chapter, and they redistribute it back for programs here and toward national research through the Alzheimer’s Association.

Q: What are some local uses?

A: It provides care and support to local patients, families and caregivers through education, literature and a various services like support groups. I know they’re in Macon and at the Medical Center of Houston County in Warner Robins. Of course, anything that happens through research is a local help because anything we find helps and finding a cure is the biggest thing of all. That’s what we’re all hoping for. There are also things like exercise classes and helping patients learn to manage symptoms. Our central Georgia region is 26 counties.

Q: How long have you been involved?

A: Three years. I started by doing the 5k fundraiser in Houston County — the Run 2 End Alzheimer’s at the Landings that John Rowlands does. I asked what more I could do and that led to being sponsorship chair last year and event chair this year.

Q: Why did you want to get more involved?

A: My mother has Alzheimer’s. She lives 500 miles away and there’s not much I can do for her day-to-day, but I can do this. The big thing with me and my spiritual upbringing is believing that faith can move mountains, but you’ve got to bring a shovel. I guess this is my shovel. It’s part of my of believing and trusting things are going to be OK. Alzheimer’s is really terrible. Did you know it’s the only top 10 cause of death in the U.S. that can’t be prevented, cured or slowed down? It’s 100 percent terminal.

Q: How does it cause death?

A: Alzheimer’s deteriorates the brain. It attacks the brain and — I’m no physician so I can’t tell you in medical terms — but it deteriorates more than the memory, it damages functions that keep us alive like breathing and pumping blood. Those are big ones but there are others that can cause vital organs to shut down and bring death. It’s an epidemic: one in three seniors die with Alzheimer’s or another dementia and Alzheimer’s itself is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S.

Q: What’s the walk like?

A: First off, it’s not a race; definitely not a race. It’s a nice little walk, about a mile, in the early evening in late September at a beautiful spot, so it’s not super hot but really pleasant. We have everything from children on up to senior citizens participating, even some Alzheimer’s patients are out walking. There are booths with information and food vendors. You can even just watch and enjoy the evening and the live band, Tres Hombres. It’s a nice time.

Q: You can come even if you’re not a registered walker?

A: Absolutely. There’s a $10 admission if you haven’t raised funds and registered. But we encourage everyone to register and even start their own team. We’ve got plenty of tips to help through the process. I’ve found almost everybody is happy to donate at least a little bit to help.

Q: What if someone wants to register, donate, form a team — how do they contact you?

A: Go to georgiawalk.org and you can select the Perry walk. You can also call Emily Bowden at 478-746-7050 for information. I’d also like to let people know about another way they can find help, the 24/7 Alzheimer’s helpline at 1-800-272-3900 that anybody can call and reach a masters-level counselor.

Answers may have been edited for length and clarity. Compiled by Michael W. Pannell. Contact him at mwpannell@gmail.com.

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