Young and old walk to end Alzheimer’s

Working with students at Quail Hollow Middle School reminds 84-year-old Southminster resident Betsy Hoak of her grandchildren.

About 85 student-athletes from Quail Hollow Middle School joined residents at the Southminster retirement community Sept. 18 to celebrate the 2013 Walk To End Alzheimer’s.

About 85 student-athletes from Quail Hollow Middle School joined residents at the Southminster retirement community Sept. 18 to celebrate the 2013 Walk To End Alzheimer’s.

Southminster and Quail Hollow recently joined forces to raise awareness for an event that is near and dear to the retirement community’s heart – the Alzheimer’s Association’s annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s, this year to be held Sept. 28, a Saturday, at SouthPark Symphony Park.

For residents like Hoak, who has participated in the walk since 1979, physical abilities aren’t quite as sharp as they used to be. That’s why the retirement community has asked Quail Hollow Middle student-athletes to walk in their place at this year’s event. To get things started, the two organizations held a mini-walk on the Southminster campus Wednesday, Sept. 18, where athletes and residents walked together for nearly a mile and celebrated life.

“I would like to think my grandchildren are experiencing something similar to this in their own schools,” Hoak said about the initiative. She lost two husbands to the disease, which causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior and eventually interferes with everyday tasks. “I’ve been walking since 1979. We’re all still trying to find why; there really hasn’t been a whole lot of progress since that time.”

Monica Morrissey, director of programs and partnerships at Southminster, said she reached out to Quail Hollow Middle Principal Rachael Neill to encourage more intergenerational relationships and as a way to give back to the community, a charitable mission of the retirement community. As next-door neighbors, Morrissey said it’s important for residents at Southminster to keep in touch with a younger generation of people and break barriers between the generations. About 60 residents and 40 staff members from Southminster and 85 student-athletes and 35 band members from Quail Hollow Middle participated in the mini-walk.

“We’ve been doing the mini-walk for years,” Morrissey said, “but never in this capacity.”

The mini-walk gives residents a chance to participate in the initiative since many can’t make the trip to SouthPark’s Symphony Park for the actual event. But this year, Morrissey said, residents who can’t walk at Symphony Park can sponsor a Quail Hollow student to walk in their place. Southminster is one of the event’s main sponsors this year.

For Quail Hollow students, Principal Neill said the partnership with Southminster is unique. Many of the school’s partners work to meet some of the critical needs of the students, such as donating school supplies and working as tutors and mentors. But with Southminster, Quail Hollow can benefit in an even greater way, Neill said. While the retirement community members still support the school’s critical needs however they can, they also can create opportunities for students to give back, too, or support teachers in other ways.

“Our school motto is that we are on the PATH. to college. PATH is an acronym for perseverance, achievement, thoughtfulness and health – the Walk to End Alzheimer’s is a really great opportunity to hit those last two,” Neill said.

At the mini-walk, Neill said she was impressed with how the students worked to start conversations with residents and interact with one another. Southminster took a risk in inviting more than 85 students from the school, Neill said, so she was happy to see students and residents alike take to each other so enthusiastically.

“In some cases, there is an age difference of 60 to 70 years, and it was a great opportunity for students to show their character and thoughtfulness,” Neill said. “I appreciate Southminster doing this because it is important that our students have these different interactions.”

The 2013 Walk to End Alzheimer’s will take place Sept. 28, a Saturday, at SouthPark Symphony Park, 4400 Sharon Road. Registration begins at 9 a.m., and the walk begins at 10 a.m. For more information on the walk, visit www.alz.org.

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