Chicago Walk to End Alzheimer's 2020 participants choose own paths this year

Alzheimer's Association hopes thousands still take part
CHICAGO (WLS) -- The 2020 Walk to End Alzheimer's kicked off Saturday, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year's walk will look a bit different.

There will not be a major in-person gathering this year because of the coronavirus, but there is still a colorful display outside Soldier Field as part of the annual walk.

"It's hard, like when your grandmother doesn't recognize you anymore," said Joanna Deming, who participated in Saturday's event.

Deming is no stranger to the devastating effect that disease has on the brain. Both her and her husband's grandparents battled dementia before their deaths.

"It's just hard for them to forget, and when they get confused. It's really scary if you don't really know what's going on and you feel like a small child," Deming said.

Deming and her family walked in Jefferson Park with the hopes of raising money to help find a cure.

Normally she'd be among thousands gathering at Soldier Field but because of the pandemic, 2020 participants are marching through their own neighborhoods in small groups still on the same mission.

"It's really important that we find a cure or even find a way to detect it early so that it can be treated so that people can continue to live a healthy life and remember their loved ones and enjoy time," said event organizer Trisha Cassel.

Cassel said the money also goes to a 24/7 hotline to help those impacted.
Promise flowers "planted" outside the stadium are meant to symbolize the reasons why so many come out each year to fight Alzheimer's, and dementia, more broadly.

The four colors of flowers symbolize each the patients, their loved ones, supporters and caretakers.

Participants, like Deming, said they are happy with the modified event, which allowed her to bring awareness to her neighborhood while honoring loved ones.

"It's nice to be able to think about them in a positive way and help people who might be going through the same thing," she said.

RELATED: Thousands attend 2019 Walk to End Alzheimer's at Soldier Field

"It's the largest fundraiser for the association, and they're continuing to provide 24/7 support for both those with the disease and those that are taking care of people with Alzheimer's or dementia," Cassel added. "There's also a lot of research right now in regards to finding a treatment and finding ways to detect it early, so it's important that we continue to raise money so those services can still happen."

I-Team Consumer Reporter Samantha Chatman and her family also took part in Saturday's walk.



Organizers said last year they raised around $1.2 million, and this year they're hoping to top that number. They expect thousands still to participate on their own on Saturday.

The opening ceremony started at 9 a.m., with the walk at 9:30 a.m. The flower garden was available for "view-only" until noon.

Visit act.alz.org for more information.
Copyright © 2020 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.