When Linda Watkins’ mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, Watkins didn’t know where to look for help as a caretaker.
Crossett Mayor Scott McCormick, left, declared November Alzheimer’s Month in Crossett and issued a proclamation urging all residents to participate in the Alzheimer’s Walk Nov. 18. He was joined at the issuance of the proclamation by Kinda Knight, the walk’s grand marshall, and Kenneth Knight. (VERSHAL HOGAN/News Observer)
Now, she’s working to make sure others don’t have that same experience.
The sixth annual Ashley County Alzheimer’s Walk will be 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 18 at Crossett High School’s Yarbrough Field fieldhouse.
“My mother has had Alzheimer’s for 14 years, and I was the caregiver, and there was nowhere to turn,” Watkins said. “This is one of those diseases that people don’t want to admit that a loved one has it, they will say, ‘Oh, my dad is just forgetful,’ or, ‘She’s just getting older,’ but it is very present, and the more I talked to people, the more I wanted to do something.”
When she first looked into more information about the disease, Watkins said she found out the number of cases would likely quadruple in the next 10 years.
So she founded the walk, which was initially branded as the Crossett Alzheimer’s Walk. The first year, the funds raised were given to Alzheimer’s Arkansas, but — in an effort to include the entire area — the next year the walk was renamed the Ashley County Alzheimer’s Walk and the funds were given to the Area Agency on Aging.
“In Ashley County, we are considered rural, and we don’t get a lot of help from outside organizations,” Watkins said. “When we give the money to the Area Agency on Aging, they are earmarked for Ashley County. Local people are paying the money, and I want local people to get the benefits.”
Watkins said she is working on getting a 501(c)3 designation for her organization, and hopes to eventually have a small board that helps distribute the money.
“That way, we can say we are giving an elderly person a life alert button, or we helped a person get a wheelchair ramp built,” she said.
The walk will include a number of vendors, five raffles and a dog show. Those who attend can also order shirts to support the cause. This year’s grand marshall will be Linda Knight.
“This disease, it is not racist, it doesn’t care if you are male or female, “ Watkins said. “I pray for a cure all the time, and I would love for people to be able to get treatment for this the same way you do with cancer. But until then, we have to do something, and that includes helping the caregivers.”
For more information about the walk, contact Watkins at 870-364-5236.