Unaka students walk to raise awareness for Alzheimer’s

Unaka High School students braved the mid-afternoon heat Friday to walk laps around its track, each step they took raising awareness for Alzheimer’s and those affected by the disease.

Melissa Loveless, a teacher at Unaka and sponsor of the Future Business Leaders of America at the school, said this was the second year they put on this walk.

“We had roughly 100 kids attend last year,” Loveless said.

Participants paid $1 to enter the track, where they then walked laps during their fourth period. There was no race, no competitions or sport-like events. For the students, this was a chance to spend time with one another while raising awareness.

“Typically, we do not get involved until it personally affects us,” Regional Director of Alzheimer’s Tennessee Tracey Wilson said.

When Wilson asked the crowd of high school students how many of them knew someone close to them who suffered from Alzheimer’s or dementia, roughly a dozen replied yes.

“It is a disease that affects everybody,” Loveless said.

Alzheimer’s carries some stigma in culture, Wilson said, even from medical professionals who assist patients suffering from it.

“A lot of individuals accept dementia as a normal part of aging,” she said. “Memory loss that affects our day-to-day […] is not normal.”

She said other people view Alzheimer’s as a mental disorder, which she said is not the case. It is a disease.

Dozens of students came out to walk in support of the walk.

“It is a miraculous thing,” Wilson said. “The awareness this group is bringing is amazing.”

Those struggling with the disease go through their trials, but Wilson said their caretakers also go through struggles others might not think about.

“Caregivers feel they need to take the burden alone,” she said.

Those interested in supporting Alzheimer’s Tennessee in its efforts to provide support can do so by contacting Wilson at 423-330-4532 or by visiting alztennessee.org for more information about the organization’s efforts.

“I like seeing our kids with community members,” Loveless said. “They get to build ties they need, working towards a common goal.”

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