More than 5 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, a progressive, fatal affliction that destroys brain cells and function. By mid-century, that number is expected to double. Over 100,000 Missourians age 65 and older have Alzheimer’s. It’s the most common form of dementia, a general term for the gradual loss of memory and other intellectual abilities. There is no cure.

The 21st annual Memory Walk, to raise money and awareness for Alzheimer’s care, support and research, takes place Sept. 11 at Busch Stadium. The event benefits the Alzheimer’s Association St. Louis Chapter, which serves more than 66,000 individuals, families and caregivers in eastern Missouri and western Illinois. “We provide outreach staff and services, respite care, education, support groups and more,” explains Kevin McFarland, director of special events for the local chapter.

Last year’s walk raised $650,000; this year’s goal is at least $750,000. A Memory Walk kick-off will be held Sunday, July 11, at the Butterfly House in Chesterfield. “Our mission is to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health,” McFarland says. More than 200,000 area family members are caregivers to a relative with Alzheimer’s, adding up to about 230 million hours of unpaid care, he says.

“There has never been a greater need for St. Louisans to enter the fight against Alzheimer’s by joining Memory Walk,” says Stacy Tew-Lovasz, recently named president of the St. Louis chapter. “The funds raised provide crucial support services and contribute to critically needed research. The Alzheimer’s Association is a world leader in both areas. I’m looking forward to working with its outstanding board of directors, exceptional staff, amazing volunteers and generous supporters in the effort to create a world without Alzheimer’s.”

‘Champions sponsor’ of the walk is Lutheran Senior Services, whose communications/media director, Luke Smith, is event chair. LSS offers 19 retirement living locations in Missouri and Illinois, nine of which include memory care for individuals with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. “We value our partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association and are privileged to be involved with Memory Walk,” says LSS chief operating officer Linda Detring. “It’s an extension of our mission and an opportunity to enhance the lives of older adults in a manner that honors and cherishes those we serve.”

Memory Walk is one of six regional walks throughout September, including Sept. 18 at T.R. Hughes Ball Park in St. Charles and those on Sept. 25 at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville. Other annual Alzheimer’s Association fundraising events include a golf classic at St. Alban’s, the Ultimate Baseball Experience at Busch Stadium, and its Affair to Remember gala at the Ritz “But Memory Walk is a community event that joins family, friends and co-workers in the fight against Alzheimer’s,” McFarland says.

Teams are still being formed. Walks vary from one to three miles, and participants typically register in groups of 10 to 12, using fundraising options supported by the Alzheimer’s Association. “As the boomer generation continues to age, Alzheimer’s will touch even more lives,” McFarland says. “When you register for Memory Walk, you’re standing up against this devastating disease and giving it the attention it deserves.”

On the Cover: The Alzheimer’s Association’s annual Memory Walk, to raise money and awareness for Alzheimer’s care, support and research, takes place Saturday, Sept. 11, at Busch Stadium. Teams are still being formed. Lutheran Senior Services serves as ‘champions sponsor’ for the event. For more information, call 800-272-3900 or visit Cover design by Noah Palone ♦ Cover photo by Jason Mueller