One of the most moving sites at the annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s is the field of flowers representing why each participant – and there are thousands – walks.
At the beginning of the Walk, participants are asked to select a flower in the color that best represents their reason for walking. Some write names or personal messages on the petals. Orange represents those who support the cause and dream of a world without Alzheimer’s; purple symbolizes those who have lost a loved one to the disease; yellow declares that the walker is a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia; blue indicates that the walker is living with the disease.
Collectively, the flowers form a Promise Garden – and its message is clear: We promise to honor, care, remember and fight.
That’s precisely why Genaro Aguilar, of team Enterprise Rent-A-Car’s Angels for Alzheimer’s, walks.
Aguilar walks to honor family members who have been impacted by the disease; to remember a beloved aunt; to show care to those struggling with Alzheimer’s and dementia today; to fight for the promise of the “first survivor;” and to raise awareness.
Raising awareness helps to educate people about the illness and the resources of the Alzheimer’s Association, many of which are easily accessed at alz.org. It also helps to break down barriers to treatment, such as embarrassment and denial.
“I’m a firm believer that any type of screening, or (detection of) early signs of it, which can help somebody impacted by it, are important,” Aguilar said.
So he walks to let those who may be experiencing warning signs know that they are not alone.
Secondly, he said he walks to spread awareness of the Alzheimer’s Association “so that people can support it, not only with their time but also their financial support so the Association can keep fighting toward a cure.”
“I think, just like with any other disease or sickness out there, you’re only as strong as your loudest voice. The more people that understand what Alzheimer’s is – it can only help,” Aguilar said.
Enterprise has a long history of supporting the Alzheimer’s Association through monetary support, volunteer time and advocacy. Aguilar said, “There’s a lot of people (there) holding hands for the same purpose – to help the cause but for different reasons.
Yvette Burke, co-chair of the 2020 St. Louis Walk to End Alzheimer’s, was a big reason why Aguilar got involved. Burke is the founding member of Enterprise Rent-A-Car’s Angels for Alzheimer’s, which began small but has grown exponentially over the past six years.
The team’s goal this year is $30,000. At press time they were more than 65% to goal.
Aguilar is excited to be able to walk this year in person. Last year due to the global pandemic, he and every other participant walked at home. But this year, the Walk will take place in all its blooming glory outside the Enterprise Center, 1401 Clark Ave. in St. Louis. Registration and check-in begin at 7:30 a.m. with the opening ceremony taking place at 9:15 a.m. and the Walk beginning just 15 minutes later.
Registering in advance at alz.org is advised but day-of registration is also an option.
Safety protocols including physical distancing, contactless registration and hand sanitizing stations will be implemented. Per CDC guidelines, all Walk attendees are asked to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or wear a mask when in an overcrowded area. Masks will be available on-site.
Walkers also have the option of participating at home. Those who choose the Walk From Home option can still engage in many Walk-day experiences through the Association’s mobile app (available in Google Play and Apple’s App Store).
Strollers are allowed, but the use of skateboards, bicycles, inline skates and wheelie footwear is discouraged for everyone’s safety.
The Walk is a rain or shine event. However, it could be canceled in the event of severe weather. Details can be found on the Walk homepage and the app.
Volunteers are needed to help with set-up, clean-up, registration, water stops and the Promise Garden among other duties. Individuals or groups interested in volunteering can visit the volunteer page at alz.org to sign up and learn more.