SUISUN CITY — Clusters of “Promise Flowers” served as a backdrop for those crossing the finish line Saturday in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s.
Hundreds met to show their support for the American Alzheimer’s Association at Harbor Plaza, which was taken over by purple balloons, health care vendors and a live band. Messages scrawled on “flowers” posted in the grass showed the vast impact of the disease. The colors orange, yellow, blue and purple represented those who support the cause, those who lost someone to the disease, caregivers of patients with Alzheimer’s and those who live with it.
Napa resident Cynthia Guzman, 64, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when she was 63. As a national spokesperson, she wants to change the stigma that goes with disease.
“(You can) have it and live with it,” she said. “(I’m) healthy, active, living today, just like you do.”
Guzman, who also participates in research, delivered a speech at the walk and encourages people to get help early.
“Medicine helps – it isn’t going to cure us, but it makes us feel better,” she said.
Committee chairperson Anne Payne, of the Area Agency on Aging, said Saturday’s walk surpassed its goal and raised more than $70,000. She said there were more than 400 entries as of Friday night.
“This is a great community,” Payne said. “All of Solano County is just incredible.”
Fairfield resident Sandee Neese, 66, walked one mile to show her support for a recently diagnosed friend and an aunt who has struggled with the disease for more than 20 years.
“It’s a very devastating disease,” she said. “It’s very hard for family members and caregivers and loved ones, but there’s a lot of wonderful support groups – sometimes I wonder how I would be without support,” she said.
Neese, sponsored by NorthBay Medical Center, used to volunteer for its Adult Day Care Center in Vacaville.
“It’s a wonderful place for patients to go,” she said. “NorthBay does a wonderful job with them.”
Participants in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s helped raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, research and support. A local committee spent about six months organizing the community walk, which had 35 teams.
“We had an amazing committee,” said Payne. “It couldn’t have happened without them.”
Payne used to work at an Alzheimer’s care center in Napa before state funding cuts. She organized Saturday’s walk to “still have the hands in the soup,” she said.
“My heart is with people with the diagnosis,” she said.
“The person has this disease, they’re not this disease,” she said. “They’re still a person (to be) treated with dignity and respect.”
Reach Adrienne Harris at 427-6956 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/aharrisdr.