3rd Walk to end Alzheimer’s set

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 11, 2014

“I had only seen my dad cry one time. That was when my mom was in a head-on collision in 1985 and we almost lost her,” said local attorney Wes Laird. “But when she was diagnosed 12 years ago with Alzheimer’s and we talked about what was coming, I saw it again.”

Wes Laird is shown with his mother, who is at least the third generation in his family to battle Alzheimer’s.

Wes Laird is shown with his mother, who is at least the third generation in his family to battle Alzheimer’s.

Laird contacted the Alzheimer’s Association two years ago as he approached his 50th birthday to start a local Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

“I had no idea what I was getting into, but knew I had to do something at my age to give some meaning to this. My mother was the third generation on her side of the family to die a slow death of the brain from this horrible disease. My grandmother was diagnosed a few years after my mom after helping my dad care for her. Now she is in Florala Health and Rehab.”

The Lower Alabama Walk to End Alzheimer’s, which will be held at Frank Jackson State Park on Saturday morning, Sept. 27 in Opp, grew from about 25 walkers to more than 100 last year.

“I am thrilled with the growth,” Laird said. “What began with a lot of help from our law firm and family members suddenly exploded into something far bigger than us,” said Laird. “We are pleased to have a number of local corporate sponsors now including SIB, Northport Health Services which has facilities in Opp, Florala, and Luverne, National Security in Elba, and Pilot Club in Andalusia.”

Two years ago the Walk raised more than $6,000. That number more than doubled a year ago, and Laird says he hopes this year will be even better. “We are seeing new breakthroughs every week now that we hope will lead to a cure. The money we raise supports research efforts and provides caregiver support.”

According to Laird, one of the greatest advantages of the Walk is that people who are in similar situations get to talk and walk with each other. Laird said, “Suddenly you realize you are far from being alone in this struggle. While it has been difficult on our entire family, I don’t know how my dad has managed to take care of mom and continue to farm. We are sometimes his worst critics, trying to tell him what to do, but overall he has been a remarkable caregiver. It takes its toll, but Nolan Laird is one of the most determined individuals I know, and he has been determined to continue taking mom with him when he goes places.”

“My wife, Deidra, and two sisters, Shanda Cassidy and Remia Robertson, have been great help both with mom and our grandmother, and it is a real blessing that we have good caregivers hired part time at home with mom.” Deidra Laird is coordinating the Lower Alabama Walk to End Alzheimer’s this year, and is working with Peter Cowley with the national organization to make this year another success.

“The No. 1 common, preventive measure for Alzheimer’s is exercise,” Deidra Laird said. “We want everyone to start a team or join one that is already registered, and enjoy the beautiful trails of Frank Jackson State Park on Sept. 27. It is a 5K walk, but you can walk less if you need to.”

There is no fee to walk, but everyone who donates or raises $100 gets one of the trademark purple Alzheimer’s tee shirts. To register to participate, call Deidra Laird at 488-4824 or go to the Lower Alabama Walk to End Alzheimer’s website at act.alz.org/LowerAlabama.