Feature Story                                                                                                      Monday January 24, 2011


Look Who's Walking

2011 Investors Group Alzheimer Society Walk For Memories Sunday Jan. 30th promises fun and fitness

Craig Hill/Voice photos


Grace Furphy holds one of the booklets she handed on Saturday and during their week-long awareness campaign at Cottonwood Mall.

he Alzheimer Society of BC had a booth setup under the big skylight at Cottonwood Mall all last week for their awareness campaign and in prelude to the annual Investors Group Alzheimer Society of BC's Walk For Memories Sunday, 1 p.m. at the Landing Sports Centre on 45530 Spadina Ave.

One of the big things the Society does is outreach. Gail Johnson who is the Volunteer Co-Chair for the Walk, was taking turns at the booth for the final day of the campaign.

"It's always a good time for the volunteers," she said.

Johnson's been mingling all week and loves the interaction, especially when she can help people understand and learn a bit more about Alzheimer's. She says the response has been great and a big bowl of candy attracts kids whose parents follow them to the display.

Taking the first step towards understanding the disease is more difficult for some people who are embarrassed by their lack of knowledge about Alzheimer's. She doesn't mind it when people plead ignorance about the disease and considers that to be part of the fun of outreach in the community.

"They walk by and tend to come back and they'll look, and then they'll stop and chat. But they're ashamed about (their lack of understanding) and that's one thing that we're trying to bring awareness about, that it's not anything to be ashamed of."

Also at the booth Saturday were long-time friends and big-time fundraisers, Grace Furphy and her daughter Maureen Galuska.

Gail Johnson points to a photo of her father Oscar.

Johnson's dad Oscar, and Furphy's husband Walter, were both Alzheimer Society honourees in 2007 and 2008 respectively, and sadly, both passed away from the disease.

Each year Furphy, who'll be 78 in March, starts out on her fundraiser as soon as this one ends and last year she raised over $2600. Part of the money came from a silent auction which Furphy says had about 12 auction items which raised $550. This year she anticipates that number to be much higher because there are 42 auction items donated by businesses and individuals in the community.

"I go around to businesses and enjoy doing it," she said. "We have a vase this year that's worth over $200 and the honey lady from Fraser Valley Honey gave me a beautiful gift basket."

Furphy also collected $200 in toonies from each member attending Alzheimer meetings and that money goes towards two food hampers that will be given away the day of the walk.

Galuska said that it was "great to see more high school participation" in fundraising activities this year and according to her some of the students have started up a Facebook page called 'Spread the Word.'

Her mother drops a coin into the 4-foot tall lighthouse bank a light flashes and a fog horn sounds.

Last year they collected a whopping $1300 in it."I like my bank, that was Wally's bank," she said with a loving pat of her hand.

Galuska said it was something her dad liked to do.                                                                                  Johnson demonstrates Wally's lighthouse bank.


"Every time he'd see a penny, he'd put it in a bank. Then mom got him the lighthouse bank so he could put his pennies into and we just kind of continued it on after that because he wanted to fill it up and help people, that is the legacy with that bank."

The Society is excited about the annual walk this year and Johnson says she thinks it might be the best turnout yet.

"We're hoping, it looks like it's gearing up to be that," she said. "Last year we had about 300 people and we raised $19,700."

The hard working Fusion Cheerleaders will have demonstrations and be getting big air as always and the Chilliwack Senior Rhythm and Blues Band make up part of the entertainment. Plus everyone who comes in the door gets a ticket on the door prize.

As she did last year, special guest Mayor Sharon Gaetz will sing the National Anthem. Mayoral warblers are rare birds and Chilliwack has one of the few singing mayors sitting in North America.

"She has a beautiful voice," said Johnson of the mayor's ability to belt it out.

Last year, the Chilliwack arm of the Society had an informational coffee meet up featuring a film about a man who had Alzheimer's disease.

In the following week, Johnson got an e-mail from a woman who saw the film and in it she said her daughter's 80-year-old grandfather had Alzheimer's. According to the e-mail Johnson said the small girl with the big heart started fundraising about 4-days ago and she's already raised $1390.

"She's made up a book of smoothie recipes called 'Brain Freezies' and everybody who donates through her fundraising campaign on Facebook gets a book. I'm going to donate because I want the book," she said with a laugh.

The indoor walk starts at 1pm so you have plenty of time for brunch first then a chance to walk it off.





About Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's is a degenerative brain disease and the most common form of dementia. It's cause isn't known but it results in progressive memory loss, impaired thinking, disorientation, as well as changes in personality and mood.

Scientifically, it has to do with the degeneration of brain neurons, especially in the cerebral cortex, and also by the presence of neurofibrillary tangles and plaques containing beta-amyloids.

The malady affects more than 70,000 people in BC who are currently living with Alzheimer's disease. Most people tend to think of Alzheimer's as a disease that strikes very old people however surprisingly, nearly 10,000 suffering from it are under age 65.

Some more quick facts about Alzheimer's disease in Canada courtesy of the Alzheimer Society of BC

For more information about the walk or the privately funded Alzheimer Society of BC call: 604-702-4603 or 604-859-3889. Also visit www.alzheimerbc.org 

See below for more photos from the mall display.

Copyright (c) 2010 The Valley Voice


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