Alzheimer's Association to hold Prince William Memory Walk

By Jennifer Buske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 27, 2010

When Manassas resident Kayla Hutchison asked her mom for a tattoo on her 18th birthday, her wish was granted on one condition: The tattoo had to mean something.

Hutchison said she knew then exactly what to do.

She and her mom got tattoos on the backs of their necks of the purple Alzheimer's Association logo to honor Hutchison's grandfather who has had the disease for eight years.

"My grandpa and I were really close, but when Alzheimer's hit, it changed him completely," said Hutchison, now 19. "My grandpa is a really big part of my life, though, so that's why I wanted to do this for him."

She and her mother, Becky Young, will participate Saturday in the association's first Prince William area Memory Walk. The event is meant to raise funds and awareness of the disease, which more than 5 million people live with nationwide.

"We can use all the walkers we can get," Young said. "And who knows? The money we raise this weekend can further research or make that miracle drug. That's the hope I'm keeping ahold of. I'm going to keep pushing it until there is a cure."

The event kicks off at 9 a.m. at the Loy E. Harris Pavilion, 9201 Center St. in Old Town Manassas. About 200 people have pledged to walk, and Alzheimer's Association officials said they hope to get several more to sign up Saturday to walk a one- or three-mile loop through Manassas neighborhoods.

"The Memory Walk is often the first opportunity we have to meet the community and raise awareness," said Abigail Reinecker, development manager for the association's National Capital Area Chapter. "This is also a great opportunity for families and friends to celebrate and remember anyone affected by Alzheimer's."

Young, 39, said that she got involved with the Alzheimer's Association about three years ago and that this will be her fourth walk. She said she didn't know much about the disease when her father received his diagnosis but quickly learned it was taking away the man she once knew.

"I was really ignorant about it and I would joke about it, but it's not a joke," she said. "It is one of the cruelest diseases out there. I would never want to forget my children, and I see my father doing it every day."

Saturday's Memory Walk is free, but participants are encouraged to raise funds. About $29,000 has been raised for the Prince William area walk, association officials said. It will be one of five walks this year in the Washington region, where roughly 500,000 people are directly or indirectly affected by Alzheimer's.

"We just want people to come out to make a big impact. We want people to say, 'What are they walking for?' " Young said. "I want the Alzheimer's [disease research] to get as much support as breast cancer does, and I think we can get there one day."

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