Even as COVID-19 takes the headlines, Alzheimer’s is still a critical health issue we all need to battle. The annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s will happen this year, but because of the pandemic, it’s not walking as usual. To learn more about how our community is participating, we talked to Stephanie Messler, director of personal care at Meadowood and chairperson of the Philadelphia Walk to End Alzheimer’s.
“Even though we’re not having a large physical event in Philly, Alzheimer’s has not gone away during COVID-19,” Stephanie stressed. “It’s still very important that everyone continue to be aware and raise money for research.”
This year, the Walk to End Alzheimer’s will be held on November 14, but because of the pandemic, it doesn’t look the same as it usually does. “Because we’re not holding a large event in Philly,” Stephanie said, “teams are walking everywhere. It’s about walking wherever you feel comfortable.”
“The Meadowood team will be walking together, but socially distanced, on the 1.2-mile loop around campus,” she explained. “For safety reasons, our walk will be open to Meadowood residents and staff only.” The numbers aren’t finalized yet, but the team is expecting about 100 walkers. They’ve ordered their team T-shirts, and even ordered purple masks.
Because of the pandemic, the Walk to End Alzheimer’s has had to get very creative with fundraising, and Meadowood is holding its own.
“At Meadowood, we’re doing Fast Food Fridays, which is a fundraiser selling Chick-fil-A, Taco Bell, Arby’s and Philly soft pretzels,” said Stephanie. “Themed baskets have been another successful fundraiser. Everybody contributed beautiful baskets. We made $1,300, and there was a nice donation from Independent Living of $10,000. Everything raised benefits the Alzheimer’s Association.”
So far, Team Meadowood has raised over $21,000 and will hike up their goal further. “We keep surpassing our goal, so we keep bumping it up,” Stephanie said. “We’re the second highest fundraising team in the Philly area!”
What has made the team so successful?” Stephanie thought for a moment. “I think it’s our energy and also the fact that we do have the support of family and spouses of our residents that live here at Meadowood,” she said. “There’s a commitment here.”
Stephanie first began her journey with Walk to End Alzheimer’s 17 years ago. “I have always worked with senior communities, and I got involved when I worked at an assisted living community program specifically for people living with dementia,” she explained. “When I first started, I got involved with the entertainment since, as a recreation therapist, I had contacts with entertainment groups, and I just kept doing it.” Having moved from entertainment chair to co-chair to chair, Stephanie’s commitment is still as strong as ever. And she urges others to jump in, too.
“We always need volunteers to make phone calls to past teams to encourage them to walk again, to join virtual committees, and to come up with new suggestions for fundraising,” she said.
Donations are welcome, as well. “Even though we have the walk officially on November 14, fundraising continues to the end of the year,” Stephanie said. “We can accept donations by December 31 that count toward our goal.”
To volunteer or donate, go to Walk to End Alzheimer’s.