The Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s, the world’s largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research will continue on Saturday, despite obstacles provided by the coronavirus outbreak, with the help of new features on the association’s mobile app.


The association has mobilized millions of Americans since 1989 in the Alzheimer’s Association Memory Walk and will continue with the Walk to End Alzheimer’s.


Rather than host a large gathering, this year the Alzheimer’s Association is encouraging those who participate in Pueblo’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s, to do so as individuals or in small groups on sidewalks, tracks and trails across Pueblo, Walsenburg, Canon City and the surrounding Southern Colorado communities.


"This year’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s will be everywhere," Charlotte Long, regional development manager for the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado said. "The pandemic is changing how we walk, but it doesn’t change the need to walk."


Long emphasized the timing and necessity of the walk, noting with the money raised, the Alzheimer’s Association can continue to provide care and support to families during this unprecedented time at no charge to them.


"This year, more than ever, we need to come together to support all those affected by Alzheimer’s and other dementia," Long said.


The money raised will also advance the critical research toward methods of treatment and prevention, Long added.


In a press release, Jim Herlihy, senior marketing and communications director for the Alzheimer’s Association Colorado Chapter, said many time-honored features of the walk will remain.


"On walk day, an opening ceremony will feature local speakers and a presentation of promise flowers to honor the personal reasons participants join together to fight Alzheimer’s and all other dementia," Herlihy said. "What’s new this year is that these events will be delivered to participants’ smartphones, tablets, and computers."


To enhance and bring a sense of familiarity to participants, a group of Alzheimer’s Association staff will create the Promise Garden in a view only format, and new features are being added.


The Promise Garden will be available for viewing on walk day, at Pueblo City Park in the roundabout on 800 Goodnight Ave., from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., to honor those impacted by Alzheimer’s.


The new features will be implemented via the Walk to End Alzheimer’s mobile app to create an opportunity for community members to connect, using the new ‘Walk Mainstage.’


These features will allow participants to track their steps and distance, follow a virtual walk path, manage their Facebook fundraisers, access information and resources from the association and walk sponsors to help individuals and families affected by the disease, and listen to an audio track that will encourage participants along their way and congratulate them upon completion of their walk.


Amelia Schafer, executive director of the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado said this year’s walk is an opportunity to ensure the safety of the Alzheimer’s community while still providing an amazing experience for participants.


"Many of our constituents are at higher risk when it comes to COVID-19 and we know that our volunteers and participants appreciate our commitment to keeping all involved healthy and safe," Schafer added.


Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States, and nearly 6 million Americans are living with it.


"Additionally, more than 16 million family members and friends provide care to people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias," Herlihy said. "In Colorado alone, more than 76,000 people are living with the disease and 256,000 more serve as their unpaid family caregivers."


To register and receive the latest updates on this year’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s, Herlihy said, you can visit alz.org/walk.


Chieftain reporter Alexis Smith can be reached by email at asmith@chieftain.com or on Twitter @smith_alexis27. Help support local journalism with a subscription to the Chieftain at chieftain.com/subscribenow.