OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The Nebraska Alzheimer's Association hosted its annual Walk to End Alzheimer's on Saturday. And though they were spread throughout the city to practice social distancing, a common goal connected the walkers.
Seventeen years ago, Jennifer Haiar's grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. At the time, she felt like there weren't many answers or resources for her family.
That was until she joined the Alzheimer's Association and found a community.
"Walk day is, it's like a family," Haiar said. "It's this big community of people who come together. We share stories. I feel like that's why I got involved because I felt like I could come by a part of something where everybody knew and understood what we were going through."
Like many events, the annual Walk to End Alzheimer's had to make some adjustments this year due to the pandemic, and while the community could not gather in person, they did so online, to share the experiences.
Beau Rusk, who runs the memory care unit at Aksarben Village Senior Living and is the chair of Omaha's Walk to End Alzheimer's Committee, says with so many restrictions in place to prevent the spread of COVID, this year especially has been challenging on patients and families.
"They get it, but at the same time, they forget why, and they don't understand the extent of it," Rusk said of the patients. "And then the same thing with the families, they understand that we're protecting their loved one, but man, this is the last chapter of these people's lives."
While walkers were apart, the organization set up a drive-thru promise garden at Zorinsky Lake. Purple flowers represent those who've passed away from Alzheimer's and blue flowers are for those currently battling the disease. Caregivers are marked with yellow, and orange is for their allies.
But among all the colors, was a single white flower.
"This symbolized that first survivor, because someday we are going to have that first survivor," Haiar said. "And that is such a big symbol of hope."
Haiar says even though Saturday was the big walk day, she hopes people in the community will continue spreading awareness online.
"Keep walking, even though today is walk day, keep walking," Haiar said. "Send us your photos, because we would love to post those up on the statewide website and just show that everybody is still out there doing this, and we're here. Because this year more than ever we need it."