Meet Andrea, walking in honor of her grandmother in the 2020 Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Birmingham.

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Andrea Barrett, together with her husband and grandmother. Photo via Andrea Barrett on Facebook

Every year, thousands of walkers across the country join the Walk to End Alzheimer’s event to raise funds and awareness for Alzheimer’s disease and all other forms of dementia. The Birmingham Walk to End Alzheimer’s is hosted by the Alzheimer’s Association Alabama Chapter. We spoke with Andrea Barrett, a “long-time walker” in the Alabama chapter who participates each year in honor of her grandmother, to learn more about this year’s virtual event

About the Walk to End Alzheimer’s

Bham Now joined the Walk to End Alzheimer’s in 2019. Photo by Matthew Niblett for BhamNow.

The Walk to End Alzheimer’s is the world’s largest fundraiser for Alzheimer’s and dementia care, support and research. Over 600 communities nationwide show their support each year.

This year, the Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s is everywhere: from downtowns to small towns and every sidewalk in between. Because the world may look a little different right now, but one thing hasn’t changed: the Alzheimer’s Association’s commitment to the fight against Alzheimer’s and all dementia.

To learn more about the 2020 Walk to End Alzheimer’s and why it matters, we spoke with Andrea Barrett. Andrea is a longtime Walk supporter in Birmingham, serving as team captain for Team Polly’s Pack and walking in honor of her grandmother, Polly.

Why Andrea Walks

Andrea Barrett with her grandmother, Nana (Polly). Photo courtesy of Andrea Barrett

Andrea Barrett is a longtime supporter of the Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Birmingham. In fact, as the captain of Team Polly’s Pack, Andrea has personally raised $2,520 for the Alzheimer’s Association.

Andrea walks in honor of her grandmother, Polly, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in August of 2015. For three years, Andrea has lead a team of friends, family and church members to walk and raise funds for the Alzheimer’s Association.

The White Promise Garden Flower represents the Alzheimer’s Association’s goal: the first survivor of Alzheimer’s. Photo via Beau Gustafson, Big Swede Inc

Prior to your grandmother’s diagnosis, what did you know about Alzheimer’s?

Andrea: “When I was younger, I just thought Alzheimer’s was something that most people developed with old age. It was just being forgetful. I never would have imagined that ‘forgetfulness’ could be so drastic as not remembering your children’s names, birthdays, or the fact that they had visited you, or that you had just spoken to them five minutes before. 

How did you find the Alzheimer’s Association?

Andrea: “Once we learned that Nana had Alzheimer’s, we began doing extensive research to find resources for support and information. The Alzheimer’s Association was the very first website that popped up. My dad served as my grandma’s primary caregiver, so their resources—like caregiver hotlines and support groups—were incredibly beneficial.”

After discovering the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, Andrea and her family immediately signed up for the Walk in Birmingham. At the Walk, Andrea found a community of people dealing with the same struggles that she and her family were experiencing.

Since then, Andrea has served as the captain of Team Polly’s Pack, leading dozens of fundraising events throughout the year. This year, Team Polly’s Pack has sold t-shirts & masks and hosted a cake sale. By far, their biggest fundraiser was a fantasy football tournament, with 120 teams participating.

What does the future look like for Team Polly’s Pack?

Andrea: “Nana lost her fight against Alzheimer’s on November 15th, 2019. I was mad at myself and others for not doing enough. For a while, I felt like giving up and ending Polly’s Pack because I didn’t know if it was doing any good. I felt like I had let Nana down.

Then, the date of the 2020 Walk to End Alzheimer’s changed. In order to walk when the temperature was a bit more bearable, the committee chose to move the date from the end of September to later in the year—November 15th, 2020. To me, this was the reassurance I needed to know that we ARE making a difference. I feel it was Nana’s way of letting me know that she is proud of what we are doing and that she is still here with us. 

Nana did not lose to Alzheimer’s. She won. She’s not here with us anymore, but she’s exactly where she wants to be. She won. 

We will keep on fighting Alzheimer’s. We will keep raising funds. One day there will be a cure. 

One day there WILL be a white flower.”

How to participate in the 2020 Walk to End Alzheimer’s

There’s one thing that hasn’t changed—for the fourth year in a row, Mike Dubberly of WBRC’s Fox 6 will be hosting the Opening and Promise Garden Ceremony. Photo via Kimberly Stephens

Obviously, this year’s Walk is different. Rather than meeting at Sloss Furnaces, the Alzheimer’s Association will be hosting several virtual events through their new platform Mainstage—a virtual experience where you can visit sponsor booths, connect with others, learn about Alzheimer’s Association resources and attend virtual events.

  • To kick things off, the Walk Planning Committee will be hosting a Virtual Pep Rally through Mainstage on October 15th at 11:30AM. Click here to register.
  • On Walk Day, November 15th, participants can view the virtual Opening and Promise Garden Ceremony through Mainstage at 10AM.
  • Visit the view-only Promise Garden near Sloss Furnaces between 12-3PM.

You can join the movement to end Alzheimer’s in Birmingham by registering as an individual or starting a team. You can support and participate in the 2020 Walk to End Alzheimer’s with three easy steps:

  1. Register: sign up as an individual, team member, or team captain.
  2. Start fundraising and spread the word: check out their tips and tricks, and other ways to raise funds online—with some cool prizes, too.
  3. Join the movement on Walk Day: take part in the interactive online experience, and then walk in your community.
Elizabeth Lorino, a longtime supporter of the Walk, hosted a flower stand fundraiser for the 2020 Walk to End Alzheimer’s with her children. Photo via Elizabeth Lorino, 2020 Walk Committee Member

Join the fight to end Alzheimer’s and all other dementia by registering, donating and fundraising for a cause that affects over 95,000 Alabamians and over 5 million Americans. With your help, we will continue to fuel the mission of the Alzheimer’s Association while spreading the word and raising awareness and funds, so that one day, we will see that White flower on Walk day, representing the world’s first survivor of Alzheimer’s.

Planning to participate in the 2020 Walk to End Alzheimer’s? Tag us @bhamnow to let us know!

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Nathan Watson
Tennessee native who fell in love with Birmingham during college. Graduated from Birmingham-Southern College in 2019. Passionate about Birmingham and its continued growth.
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