Multicolored pinwheel flowers with a special meaning were on display Saturday as the Alzheimer’s Association — Greater East Ohio Chapter hosted a Walk to End Alzheimer’s.
An estimated 500 people from across Medina County participated. Organizers said the event raised about $60,000 toward Alzheimer’s research, support and care thanks to donations from participants and businesses.
“The estimated prevalence of Alzheimer’s in Medina County is around 3,500 people,” Greater East Ohio Chapter development director Lori McCleese said.
Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia that affects nearly 5.3 million Americans, McCleese said.
The national group’s walks are its largest in raising awareness and funds for care and research.
“There are nearly 700 Walk to End Alzheimer’s events across the country. Our chapter has hosted this Walk in Medina for as long as I can remember, and it is amazing to see so many people in the community come out to offer their support.
“I really love getting to know the people and businesses in Medina County, because everyone is so supportive. A lot of people have been touched by Alzheimer’s,” McCleese added.
The pinwheel flowers that were carried were part of what the group calls a “promise garden.”
“The best part of volunteering here is seeing all of the people carry the pinwheels,” said Madison Carr, 16, of Spencer.
“Each one has its own meaning, and I think it’s really beautiful.”
Chapter development coordinator Stephanie Mueller explained each individual flower’s meaning during a promise garden ceremony that took place before the walk.
“There are four colors — orange, yellow, purple and blue flowers. Orange flowers support the cause and a vision for a world without Alzheimer’s disease. Purple flowers signify somebody who has been lost to the disease, and unfortunately there are many walkers that have lost loved ones to the disease. Yellow flowers are for the caregivers — whether you personally have a loved one or are working in those memory-care facilities, we recognize and honor you. Blue signifies those with the disease.”
Hundreds of the participants carried the pinwheels during the walk, which honored the Liverpool Township family of Patti Schaefer and their team, “Patti’s People.” The family has been participating in the event for seven years, and their involvement has been so moving to members of the Greater East Ohio Chapter that the family was asked to share their story.
Sarah Petitt explained the impact Alzheimer’s had on her life after her mother, Patti Schaefer, was diagnosed with the disease at age 52.
“In 2007, our family’s lives changed forever,” Petitt said.
“Before her 60th birthday, she was unable to feed herself, dress herself or even move her body on her own. For seven years, all of us who loved her had to say a long goodbye.
“Almost every single day, my dad, sister Hannah, and friends and family were by her side. While her cherished memories of all those people faded due to Alzheimer’s, our love for her did not. We continue to show our love and support through events like this, bonding and raising awareness and funds for research,” Petitt said.
Mueller added, “People like the Schaefer family inspire me greatly.
“I am passionate about this cause because I have seen the impact that it has had on our community, and I have heard so many stories from family members who help us work toward finding a cure. They make me more passionate every day, and I hope more than ever that we can find a cure.”
After the ceremony, participants took part in a 45-minute, 2.5-mile walk from Medina High School through the Forest Meadows housing development.
“It affects so many people, as this walk demonstrates,” McCleese said.
“We need to find a cure.”