Groups join forces for Alzheimer’s event

Gina and Steve Waterhouse, of the Village of Pine Ridge, talk about their participation in the Virtual Walk to End Alzheimer’s disease event.

Steve and Gina Waterhouse sat in their decorated golf cart, wearing all purple and waiting for the parade to begin. The Village of Pine Ridge couple looked forward to the golf cart parade in which they were participating as part of the Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s. The Walk to End Alzheimer’s took place Saturday throughout The Villages with the involvement of multiple Villages groups and individuals in a variety of events, including physical walks, virtual walks and golf cart parades, as ways to raise awareness. It is the first event of its kind in The Villages. The event raised $65,000 so far, with the tally expected to rise as donations are accepted until Dec. 31.

This event is the world’s largest to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are more than 5 million Americans battling Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. In Florida alone, more than 580,000 people live with the disease.

Terry Boynton, manager of Walk to End Alzheimer’s for the North Central Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, said this event was more important than ever this year.

“Alzheimer’s isn’t waiting, and that’s why we are so grateful to have dedicated community members stepping up to show their support for the growing number of Floridians facing this disease,” he said.

For the Waterhouses, participating in the event has another meaning. Gina has been participating every year for the last five years when she was first diagnosed with the disease.

“It’s been hard, but it’s something I want to do to help raise awareness for others,” the Village of Pine Ridge resident said. “This year, I carried a blue flower pin on my visor, and I dressed in all purple, including my cape, because I just want to draw attention to how important it is to raise awareness for Alzheimers.”

Her husband, Steve, stood by her side.

“This was our first Alzheimer’s event in The Villages,” he said. “But it more than exceeded our expectations. We had corporate teams participating in addition to local neighborhood teams. We exceeded our goal in funds and the Promise Garden held at The Villages Polo Fields was just flawless and beautiful.”

They were part of Team First Survivor, which leads in donations with $5,740 raised. While they still wished for the live events, the message of raising awareness took precedence.

“There is no cure and no treatment for Alzheimer’s,” Steve added. “We are currently behind in research because, for a while, people didn’t know they had it until they passed away. Part of the funds collected will go toward further advancements in the research needed to help find a cure.”

Ray DiTirro also worked hard to get people together for this unique event. As captain of the Dink Away Dementia group, the group of avid pickleball players got together in Brownwood to walk around tapping pickleballs off their paddles at the farmer’s market held at the Brownwood Paddock Square.

“It was designed to be like a flash mob,” said the Village of Pinellas resident. “We had everyone wearing T-shirts and were just trying to raise awareness. It was fun, and we talked to a lot of folks and told them how they could donate to the cause.”

Sue and Jim Bodenner, of the Village Tierra Del Sol, participated in the virtual 5K event sponsored by The Rotary Clubs of The Villages. They used a tandem bike.

“We have walkers and riders that are raising funds for Alzheimers,” said Sue. “We don’t know what our target is, but participation during a pandemic is difficult for all service clubs, so it’s nice to find another way to help raise funds.”

The Rotary Club of The Villages Evening group was one of the sponsors for the Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s. All sponsors, including the other two Rotary Clubs of The Villages and The Villages Health, came together with the common goal of raising money to help fund research seeking a cure.

To learn more about the Alzheimer’s Association or how to donate, visit alz.org/cnfl or call the 24/7 hotline at 800-272-3900.

Staff writer Andrea Davis can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5374, or andrea.davis@thevillagesmedia.com.