SCHENECTADY — The Schenectady 2023 Walk to End Alzheimer’s is set to take place Sept. 30 at Mohawk Harbor, offering those affected by the disease a chance to come together, raising money and awareness.
The Walk to End Alzheimer’s is the world’s largest event dedicated to fighting Alzheimer’s, with walks taking place “around the globe,” said Marisa Korytko, marketing and public relations director of the Alzheimer’s Association Northeastern New York Chapter.
The Northeastern New York chapter is hosting five walks in the region, beginning with the Schenectady walk on Sept. 30 at Mohawk Harbor. Other walks will be held Oct. 14 in Queensbury and Hudson, Oct. 21 in Albany, and Oct. 28 in Cooperstown, according to the Alzheimer’s Association website.
“It’s a way for the community to really come together,” said Korytko. “Our executive director always says that she thinks of it as the world’s largest support group, because you see people who are coming back time and time again, because they have formed these friendships with people who have gone through the same things that they have gone through.”
Mary Rose Petrozola, who is a volunteer on the Schenectady Walk to End Alzheimer’s Committee and a team captain of a walk team, said supporting the cause is something she has felt passionate about, “for a long time.”
“It’s one of more important things I feel like I can do,” Petrozola said. “It’s just a very important cause for me to be a part of. My grandfather, who the team is named in honor of, passed from complications of the disease. So it’s important for me to do whatever I can to be able to, again, raise awareness and further educate people the best I can.”
Her team, Alz Well EEG, formed in 2020 in honor of her grandfather, Edward Elmer Gordon. The team name is a nod to him, including his initials, E.E.G., and a reference to the William Shakespeare play, ‘All’s Well That Ends Well.’
Petrozola said she has perceived strong support from the community, noting that the disease’s reach is widespread.
“It’s always a surprise from year to year, how many people this touches,” said Petrozola. “Everybody basically has, or knows of, somebody that’s touched by this disease.”
Petrozola’s team showcases a great example of community support, having partnered with Schenectady restaurant Simone’s Kitchen to offer an ‘Alz Well’ bowl throughout the month of September, she said.
“Bashir (Chedwaree), who is one of their part-owners, he is making an Alz Well bowl,” Petrozola said. “The entire month of September, he will run that special bowl, and proceeds specifically from that bowl will go to benefit my walk team.”
Participants can register individually, or sign up with a group as a team. Registration or donations for the Schenectady walk can be done online at act.alz.org/schenectady23, or in-person on the day of the event. Information on all five area walks is available at act.alz.org/neny.
The walk begins at Mohawk Harbor and isw roughly one mile long, said Korytko. The event also includes a mini-walk of roughly one-tenth of a mile. Registration for the event begins at 10 a.m., at which time numerous sponsor tables will be set up with various resources.
The opening ceremony will begin at 11 a.m., with the walk itself immediately following.
The Schenectady walk also includes a Promise Garden ceremony, where walkers carry different flower colors to signal their connection to Alzheimer’s. While Korytko said it can be, “heartbreaking,” to see the amount of purple flowers, signifying those who have lost someone to the disease, she added that one of the Alzheimer’s Association’s goals is to help find a cure.
“I think what we are trying to look for is the end to this disease, when there will be no more purple flowers,” Korytko said. “We’re looking to the time where there is that first survivor of this disease.”
While fundraising for participants is not required to join the walk, it is encouraged. The Schenectady walk has a fundraising goal of $150,000. Funds raised locally help the Northeastern New York chapter provide programs and services to families in the area going through Alzheimer’s, said Korytko, and also help the Alzheimer’s Association to fund research.
Korytko emphasized that strong steps in research have been taken over recent years, providing what she called, “a layer of hope,” to the Walks.
"We still need to keep fighting, and we still need to keep investing in research,” said Korytko. “But I feel like there is a lot more hope, because of some of the progress and the research that we’ve made in the past few years.”
She said it is rewarding to see the impact of the Walks, noting the disease has an extensive reach.
“When you’re on the stage, and you look out and you see people holding their flowers, it just makes you realize how pervasive this disease is, and how it impacts so many of the members of our community,” Korytko said. “It’s a very rewarding experience, because I know these people are getting support, and that they’re feeling like they’re not alone. … I think that the more that we see that other people are in our situation and are in our shoes, the more we feel like we can ask for help.”
Click HERE to donate to Team Alz Well EEG.