By PAIGE WALTON
Saturday, Oct. 14 the University of Mary Washington men’s basketball team participated in The Annual Fredericksburg’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s. The walk began at Jefferson Square, continued across campus walk and back. The entire basketball team came out along with all of the coaches, their families and dogs. The walk raised over over $160,000, and the numbers are still rising.
“This was the largest turnout from UMW ever and we’re hoping the number will continue to increase annually,” said Sammi Van Heest, the UMW student ambassador for the walk and sophomore studio arts major.
In talking about the basketball team’s decision to join the efforts to end Alzheimer’s, head coach Marcus Kahn said, “It was a no brainer for us… We all saw it as a chance to help out another UMW student with their cause. The team was on board right from the start… They signed up that night for the walk during study hall,”.
Kahn went on to say, “We do a number of community service events throughout the year, but most take place off campus for people that we have no connection to, when Sammi approached me, it put a personal connection to it, rather than just a flyer or blanket email, once we met, I could tell that we were doing the right thing.”
The walk took place the day before basketball practice officially started for the team. The players were free to use their last day off as they wished, knowing they would not have a break for months to come. Junior Johnny Cronin said, “The team decided to participate because we love getting involved in the community and we think that Alzheimer’s is a cause that everyone should rally around.”
Talking about the basketball’s team’s commitment to supporting the cause, Van Heest said, “It was early in the morning and it was their last day before the season started, and the fact that they chose to spend it walking to end Alzheimer’s is amazing. Needless to say it heightened everyone’s spirits seeing such an important part of UMW come out Saturday morning.”
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s Disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. The association also reports that the disease is so prolific that every 66 seconds, someone develops Alzheimer’s. With a disease this prevalent, almost everyone is affected in some way.
Junior Sekai Walker said “[The walk] was great, everybody who participated were good hearted people… I felt that I was helping in at least the smallest possible way, and that’s a great feeling to have.”
Adding on to that sentiment, sophomore A.J Robinson said, “The walk was very uplifting because it felt good that lots of people were willing to come out and support the cause… There is something to be said for people coming out and trying to make a difference in the world,”.
In past years, the UMW turnout has been much lower, averaging about five or six students. This year, the turnout was closer to 30. Many of the players and coaches have a personal connection to the disease, with either someone in their family having the disease or through knowing someone personally and being effected.
To represent a person’s relationship to the disease, people were able to pick up and carry around a flower windmill, color coded based on relationship.
Kahn said, “[The walk was] pretty eye opening, seeing the number of people affected by this disease and which flower they were holding… This was all a learning experience for me and even most of the players… People carrying an orange flower were there to support, the purple flower represented those who had lost someone, yellow was if you took care of someone with it and blue was if you personally had the disease, so it was pretty moving to see the different flowers during the walk.”
Speaking of the biggest takeaway from the event, Cronin said “Even though Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease that negatively affects so many lives, that doesn’t mean that hope is defeated and that we shouldn’t fight for a cure.”