The world’s largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research, the Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s, looked different this year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Locally, instead of gathering for a large in-person event in Anderson, individuals and small groups walked on sidewalks, tracks and trails wherever they chose on Saturday, October 10.

Despite the different format, the local branch of the event has taken in more than $72,000 with the top two fundraising teams, comprised of committed and caring students at Clemson University, taking in the bulk of that total.

Members of the Transfer Council pose with a sign for the Alzheimer’s Association during the 2019 “Cones for a Cause” event on Library bridge.

The sisters of Sigma Kappa, Kappa Pi have raised over $40,000 with their fundraising efforts so far this year. Because on-campus fundraising events are not possible with current limitations, the team members have stepped up their personal fundraising.

“Sigma Kappa fights every day to end Alzheimer’s and prides itself on being the first sorority to recognize the need for more comprehensive study on aging and memory in the elderly community,” said Claire Atkinson, a junior at Clemson and vice president of philanthropy at Sigma Kappa. “While this year we have raised $40,000 for Alzheimer’s research, our fundraising efforts have changed drastically. As team captain of the Kappa Pi Chapter, I am proud to say that the members of this chapter have truly taken the initiative themselves to continue fundraising for a cure for this disease.”

Emma Benning, a sophomore in Sigma Kappa, is walking and fundraising for her grandmother, who is living with Alzheimer’s.

“Each time we go visit her, we’re not sure if she’s going to remember us. But each time we go we always make sure that she has a smile on her face and we’re able to remind her of all of the fun memories that we’ve had,” said Benning. “For me and so many of my sisters, it’s so important to help fundraise to find a cure, because a lot of us have been affected by the disease. We are hoping to make a difference the world and where we can make a place where all memories are remembered and all memories are cherished. ”

“At the beginning of the pandemic, I was a little worried about fundraising, thinking that I wouldn’t be able to reach my goal this year,” Benning added. “But I put my Walk fundraising page on my Facebook, and slowly but surely family and friends started to donate.”

A group of students in purple t-shirts stand under the Esso sign

Student volunteers pose at the Esso club during the 2019 Tigerpalooza event.

In addition, the Clemson Student Government Transfer Council team has raised over $3,000 despite the challenges posed by COVID-19. Each year, this team hosts TigerPalooza, a silent auction event at Esso Club on the date of the Spring Football Game. While the fundraiser was canceled this year due to the pandemic, the team members were steadfast in their efforts, reaching out to friends, family and businesses to raise funds in lieu of an in-person event.

“My grandmother recently passed away from Parkinson’s disease. Although not the same as Alzheimer’s disease, both diseases are devastating neurological disorders,” said Will Meyer, senior and current director of the Transfer Council. “Raising money for the Alzheimer’s Association this year is something I will not take lightly as we continue to support research, give care to patients and support families facing the disease.”

“Whether COVID is happening or COVID’s not happening, we weren’t going to let that stop us.” said Marcus Crawford, a senior member and former director of the Transfer Council.  “As transfers, we don’t have a lot of time here. We don’t have those full four years here like most students, but we always want to have an impact that lasts longer than us.”

With the dollars raised by Walk to End Alzheimer’s, the Alzheimer’s Association will provide care and support to families during these difficult times while also advancing critical research toward methods of treatment and prevention for Alzheimer’s and all dementia.

There is still time to support Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Anderson. To register or donate, visit alz.org/sc/walk or call 800-272-3900. The event’s opening ceremony can be streamed online and an interactive virtual route remains available on the free Walk to End Alzheimer’s app.

Student with the Transfer Council man the table during the 2019 “Cones for a Cause” event to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to alter daily life and threaten the health of millions in the United States, the Alzheimer’s Association is providing virtual programs to ensure that dementia caregivers have access to information, support and resources. In addition, its free 24/7 Helpline (800-272-3900) offers around-the-clock support for caregivers and families.

More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease – the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. Additionally, more than 16 million family members and friends provide unpaid care to people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. In South Carolina alone, there are more than 95,000 individuals living with the disease and 318,000 people providing care for them.

“Alzheimer’s is not taking a hiatus during COVID-19, and neither can we,” said Cindy Alewine, president of the Alzheimer’s Association, South Carolina Chapter. “This year, more than ever, we need the support of our community to serve all those affected by Alzheimer’s and other dementia.”

Alzheimer’s Association®

The Alzheimer’s Association is a worldwide voluntary health organization dedicated to  Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Its mission is to lead the way to end Alzheimer’s and all other dementia — by accelerating global research, driving risk reduction and early detection, and maximizing quality care and support. Visit alz.org or call 800.272.3900.