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Gerontology Club sponsors walk to benefit Alzheimer’s

October 07, 2009

The more Lindsay Waqar and Ashlie Killian learn about Alzheimer’s Disease, the more determined they are to raise awareness and do whatever they can to help those whose lives have been forever changed by the disabling condition. At the top of the McDaniel sophomores’ agenda is a Memory Walk on Oct. 18 to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association.

Nearly 5.3 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, almost all of them 65 or older, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. The progressive disease is the 6th leading cause of death and costs $148 billion a year.

Alzheimer’s primarily strikes the elderly – the very people, Waqar and Killian say, who still have so much to share with younger generations.

“With their knowledge – think of all they can tell us,” says Killian, vice president of the College’s Gerontology Club.

“Their personalities – I just love them,” says Waqar, a pre-med major who is club president. “And they really love younger adults. They are so appreciative of everything we do.”

Waqar and Killian relish time spent with senior citizens. They love to listen to the stories of days long gone, of World War II and life before television, let alone the Internet.

And they are doing what they can, along with about the dozen or so other members of McDaniel’s Gerontology Club, to make a difference in the lives of seniors near and far. Many of the club members – both graduate and undergraduate – are either pursuing Gerontology as a minor or in master’s and certificate programs. Others will combine it with another program of study – Waqar may consider a field of medicine related to the elderly and Killian may combine the College’s new Gerontology minor with Communication toward a career in advertising and marketing, knowing that she will have a better understanding of the elderly, who are bound to be an even more important target audience as the baby boomers age.

Neither of the women is certain yet of a career direction. At this point, they are exploring all possibilities and want to make sure they’ve incorporated their interests and passions in whatever they do. Roommates as freshmen last year, the friends spearheaded movement of the Gerontology Club from club status to affinity group, which means members live together in a house where they can best serve a common cause.

Members of the Gerontology Club, nine of whom live in the affinity housing on Pennsylvania Avenue, are working hard to spark interest and engage walkers for what will be the first Memory Walk not only at McDaniel College but in Carroll County as well.

“We want this to be Carroll County’s walk since it’s the only county in our area that hasn’t had a walk,” Waqar says. “Until now, that is.”

Club members volunteer at local retirement communities. They have plans for Bingo nights and perhaps a Senior Dinner Dance. Although the club was already in place, a recent candlelight vigil in Frederick was a real eye-opener for club members.

 
Gerontology Club members (front row) Lindsay Waqar, Aidi Arty, Caroline Schippereit, (back row) Ivon Martinez, Ashlie Killian, Emma Adams, Katherine Restrepo, Heather Biddinger listen to the personal stories of families touched by Alzheimer’s during a recent candlelight vigil.

“It was enough to make you tear up,” Waqar says. “The vigil was to raise awareness, and we heard a woman speak who was trying to hold her family together while caring for her father who has Alzheimer’s.

“She said that the Alzheimer’s Association has helped her learn how to cope with everything. And that’s why we decided we also want to support the association – to help them help families dealing with the disease.”

The club has been busy recruiting walkers from campus and the Carroll County community to join in the event. They’ve tacked up flyers in community businesses, libraries, the hospital, restaurants, and anywhere else that granted them permission. They’ve also kept Carroll Lutheran Village and other nearby retirement communities stocked with information about the inaugural walk.

“All of the money we raise – 100 percent – will be donated to the Alzheimer’s Association,” Waqar says. “We want to help as many people as we can.

“Growing old is a part of life. We’re all going to be there someday.”

About the Memory Walk:

The event will be held on the track and on a course surrounding Bair Stadium at 12:30 p.m. Oct. 18 (rain date Oct. 25). Registration begins at 11:30 a.m. Students and faculty are encouraged to form teams of at least five members to compete in a battle to see which group can raise the most money for the Alzheimer’s Association. Teams should register by Oct. 14.

More information is on the website for The Center for the Study of Aging at McDaniel College at www.mcdaniel.edu/csa.

For questions or to obtain a pledge form, contact Lindsay Waqar at lnw002@mcdaniel.edu or club advisor and McDaniel professor Diane Martin at dbmartin@mcdaniel.edu.

 
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