It was Saturday morning and my roommates and I were sleeping. At 8:15, my alarm went off and announced the beginning of the morning, which for us usually starts much later – sometimes even well into the afternoon. This morning, however, we dragged ourselves out of bed so that we could participate in a walk for Alzheimer’s.

Only the thought of helping others was strong enough to rip the three of us from our beds. As we walked to ITS, one of my roommates, sophomore Annie Negussie, turned to me and remarked, “Seriously, I should be in bed right now! I’m only here because of my good conscience and because you woke us up in the damn morning.” I actually thought they would throw their pillows at me and fall back asleep, but despite our difficulties embracing the early morning, by 8:45 a.m., all three of us were on a bench outside of ITS waiting for the rest of the group to show up.

While we were talking, I asked a fellow walker, Katherine Swidarski, if this walk had any particular meaning for her. Personally, I don’t know anyone who has Alzheimer’s. I was just interested in participating in some community service project. Swidarski, however, did know someone who had the disease.

“A very close friend of mine from back home in Ohio, about six years ago, her grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and because it was such a painful experience for her and her family, I became just as involved in raising money for Alzheimer’s research as they have,” Swidarski said. “I’ve done the walks in Ohio and now here I am.”

At around 9 a.m. when all 12 of the UR volunteers showed up, we piled into three cars and set off. We blasted Mary J. Blige from the car radio to help wake us up on the ride to the event. When we arrived at Monroe Community Hospital, where the walk began and ended, we were met by a vibrant scene. There were colorful balloons decorating the tables, a face painting station, a DJ, clowns, photographers and a large group of volunteers and participants. Children, babies and dogs accompanied the adult walkers. The dogs were even dressed in bright purple shirts that said “I’m walking in memory of Grandma. Alzheimer’s Memory Walk.” Everyone was energetic and excited about the walk and were huddled in groups waiting for the program to begin.

After signing in, a few of us had our faces painted with stars, hearts and snakes to which we added a UR in order to represent our fantastic school. After the face-painting, we were excitedly greeted by the woman in charge of the event. Although somewhat eccentric, she was very enthusiastic and, in a few minutes, had everyone dancing to help warm us up for our approaching walk. We were waving our hands in the air, doing half-twists with our hips, basically just jumping all over the place.

Overall, the walk was an enjoyable and engaging experience. A few of the volunteers remarked that they had so much fun talking with one another that the 3.5-mile walk felt shorter than they would have expected. Circle K President Sabrina Gmuca expressed her pleasure that everyone was so sociable and animated despite the early hour of the walk.

Gmuca found out about the walk online in a calendar of events that describes service projects that take place in the Rochester community. She felt that this would be a good project to start off the year. “Walks are not too involved for the beginning of the semester and are fun enough that people want to participate in them,” Gmuca said. She was also pleased with the turnout and explained that, “People can be as involved as they want to be in Circle K. We understand that college students are busy, so we know that people can only attend certain events, and not others.”

Continuing, Gmuca said, “I don’t have to have a personal involvement with an activity to be involved in it. Everyone knows someone who has some disease or ailment, so it is important to support many different organizations regardless of the specific diseases for which they are raising funds.”

Handis can be reached at mhandis@campustimes.org.



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