The Journal Gazette
Sunday, October 06, 2019 1:00 am

Taking on Alzheimer's

Family members take part in annual fundraising walk


Barb Roe of Albion has a memory of her mother that makes her laugh now but was heartbreaking at the time.

She discovered her mother had poured mushroom soup in the back of the coffeemaker.

It was a sure sign that Alzheimer's disease had inched closer to stealing her mother's mind. 

Roe and her husband, Doug, and several other family members sported purple T-shirts Saturday as participants in this year's Memory Walk to End Alzheimer's. 

“We thought, 'This is something we ought to do for mom,'” she said amidst a sea of purple on the plaza in front of Parkview Field.

The family weren't newcomers to the annual Fort Wayne event – they've participated five times. This year, they raised $42,000 to fight the disease – making them the top fundraisers at the start of the event.

The 1- and 3-mile walks were expected to top goals for dollars raised and the number of participants, said Anne Murray, development director for the greater Indianapolis chapter of the association.

This year's goal is $290,000, she said. About 1,500 to 1,700 people were expected to participate. 

“We anticipate a record year,” Murray said. “We're going to be really close.”

About 110,000 people are estimated to have Alzheimer's in Indiana, with more than 330,000 providing care, she said.

Billy Gross, 62, of Fort Wayne cared for his late mother, Annabelle, for years. He has participated for 10 years in her memory.

“She'd be 95 this year,” he said, walking with his sister Cyndie Golecke and her friend John Hatton.

Gross said his family has probably raised more than $50,000 over the years – plus $5,200 this year – because of the way the disease affected the family.

“Most people here have a personal connection or they are working in the industry as caregivers,” said Abby Geha, a spokeswoman for the association's local chapter.

Roe said her mother, Mary Rollins of Albion, was always a strong and independent woman – raising five children, doing factory work and serving as a telephone operator.

But when the disease overtook her, it was like she was trapped in her own body,” Roe said.

“She had these blank stares,” Roe said. “She started telling stories about dead people, like doing chores with her dad on the farm and feeding horses. So we knew she was back to about 12 years old.

“She got to the point where she didn't talk at all, and we knew she didn't recognize us.”

That was painful, Roe said.

“I used to cry every time I left there,” she said.

Because of the disease's links to heredity, Roe said, she's become determined to fight for the association's main cause – finding a cure.

“We better,” she said. “Counting on it.”

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