Alzheimer’s walk takes to the streets May 30

By Ken Kellar
Local Journalism Initiative reporter

It’s almost that time of year again when people of all ages take to the streets to help raise money for the Alzheimer Society of Canada.

The annual IG Wealth Management Walk for Alzheimer’s will take place on Sunday, May 30 across Canada, including here in Fort Frances. Like many events of the past year, including last year’s Walk, the event will be held virtually to account for continuing COVID-19 restrictions, but Alzheimer Society of Kenora/Rainy River Districts client services co-ordinator Mary O’Connor said the event will continue on just as actively as it has in the past to benefit those who turn to the society and its programming.

“It’s one of the big fundraisers that we have during the year, and we’re encouraging people to get out and walk, enjoy the day and send us some pictures,” O’Connor explained.

“Of course, it is a fundraiser, so I do have hard copies of pledge forms, if anybody wants one. Or they can go online and register.”

Like last year, there is no limit to the type of activity people can do in order to take part in the walk and raise money. Participants who ventured out near the Sorting Gap, where O’Connor was camped for a short while, were seen biking, running and walking, but O’Connor said the type of activity isn’t important. Rather, it’s what the different activities represent that makes the Walk so vital, and so embraced by the community.

“People can do whatever their hearts desire,” O’Connor said.

“The idea is just getting out and remembering or celebrating their loved one with dementia. If you’re at home with your loved one, take them out for a walk too. You can ride your bike, ride your horse, whatever, the idea is just to get out and make a point of remembering them and doing something.”

Of course, like other events on the scale of the IG Walk for Alzheimer’s, there are a few perks available to those who are planning to take part. While the scale of the event must be kept smaller than it had in the years before COVID, O’Connor noted there is still a bit of swag to be handed out.

“I have posters that say ‘I Walked For’ so if anybody wants one of those they can call me,” she said.

“And anyone who is walking, if they are interested in an Alzheimer’s Walk t-shirt, this year I have some. Just give me a call and we can make arrangements. I’ll make sure they get what size they want. Last year I didn’t have any so I was really excited to get some. It was really hard for us because they usually do the Walk in Dryden and they take all the t-shirts and then they do the walk here. This year they had to send them and you don’t know how many you need.”

The t-shirts are available free to anyone participating in the walk, O’Connor said, much like the host of programs offered by the Alzheimer Society that the walk is aiming to support. Like in years past, all the money raised through the society’s fundraising efforts go towards its programming and this year is no exception. O’Connor shared that this year there are activation kits and their ongoing music project that will receive the bulk of the funds raised, and money will also go towards some supplies like brochures and information packets.

“Each activity kit is worth around $40 and we put in it things that will be interesting to our loved ones with dementia,” O’Connor explained.

“Last year I got to make them, so if I knew somebody was at home out on the farm, I would put in something like a fly swatter with an extendable handle, because that’s something you need out in the country. Depending on the person you can gear the activity kits to that person’s level, what they would enjoy. The idea is colour and tactile stimulation without making it childish.”

The music project continues to seek out and fill up old iPods for distribution to those living with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, with a drop off location for old, but still functional iPods at Sight and Sound in downtown Fort Frances. Without the donation of old devices, the Society would have to spend roughly $200 per person to buy each iPod. The iPods are then filled with a customized playlist for the individual who will receive it and can be kept free of charge for as long as wanted.

The fundraisers are, of course, to help the Alzheimer Society continue to offer its programming, but O’Connor stressed that it’s also to ensure that no one is turned away from the society’s services because of a lack of money, helping to ensure everyone can get what they need. It’s helpful, then, that the annual walk in Fort Frances has been embraced by the community, with plenty of participation year over year, something that O’Connor said is due to the community aspect of it all, as well as the opportunity it provides to spend active time together with those living with dementia.

“I think it’s something that the caregiver and the person with dementia can attend and have equal amounts of fun,” she said.

“When we started off we had big prizes, small prizes, draws. Even if you only got a $2 Tim Horton’s gift card it was so exciting. We had games and an old fashioned picnic. Involving the community had a lot to do with it. Last year when we got down there I was surprised at how many people were milling around. It has become such an event here. The caregivers just love it. You feel like you’re doing something good.”

For more information about the IG Wealth Management Walk for Alzheimer’s or to register to take part, go to and follow the links.

Signs of Alzheimer’s disease

Trouble with memory—specifically difficulty recalling information that has recently been learned—is often the first symptom of Alzheimer’s disease.

In addition to memory loss, symptoms of Alzheimer’s include:

  • Trouble completing tasks that were once easy.
  • Difficulty solving problems.
  • Changes in mood or personality; withdrawing from friends and family.
  • Problems with communication, either written or spoken.
  • Confusion about places, people and events.
  • Visual changes, such trouble understanding images.