Defying The Odds: Fargo Assembles Against Alzheimer’s Disease

Joshua Berggren, MSUM Documentary/Photojournalism Major

Sept. 15, 2012

Fargo, N.D. – Energy and excitement built as 500 men, women and children (and a score of dogs, too) gathered at the Aurora Elementary School to contribute their support to those suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease.


The inspiration

The Alzheimer’s Association, a nationwide organization committed to raising awareness and support to combat the growing disease, hosted its annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s Valley Metro Walk & 5K Run, encouraging community members to walk solo, join a team, or even start one themselves. A brisk morning breeze was the first to greet supporters as they began to arrive about 8 a.m., catching many by surprise as they filed into the school by twos and threes. After completing a brief registration process, supporters were invited to don purple Alzheimer’s Association T-shirts or slap a matching sticker on their own attire.

Alzheimer’s Association volunteers register participants for the 2.4 mile walk and 5K run.
Naomi Roisum, a resident of Moorhead, Minn., is given a purple wristband after completing her registration.









The Support

Though the event didn’t begin until 9 a.m., supporters weren’t left to meander aimlessly. Inside the school massages were given. Outside the front doors, breakfast foods were served; a DJ played classic rock and a trio of local break-dancers worked their linoleum turf beside a small stage. Kids were ecstatic to see a man tying balloons beneath a colorful top hat, and a table of colored-fabric flowers and stones with the words, “faith,” “hope,” or “love,” inscribed on them formed a “remembrance garden”.

Chris Nere, 28, gives a massage to a walk participant. Nere is the director of therapy at Healthsource™, a chiropractic and rehabilitation center in Fargo, N.D.
Jake Rueter, a Milnor, N.D., resident, makes balloon apparel for youth outside the Aurora Elementary School before the event.
A participant at the “remembrance garden” writes the name of whom he is supporting on a “promise flower”. The flowers were colored blue, yellow, orange and purple, indicating that a person has Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), is supporting someone with AD, supports the Alzheimer’s Association’s cause, or has lost someone to AD, respectively.


The action

Several speakers took to the stage promptly at 9 a.m., pathos bringing the crowd together as they listened, captivated by personal accounts of the effects of Alzheimer’s Disease. Afterward, runners began the 5K around Rendezvous Park (located directly behind the Aurora Elementary School) and walkers took to their own 2.4-mile path. Dog’s barked playfully and young children laughed together. Stories and smiles were passed under the bright sunshine as friends and family cherished their time together, creating a new memory that many of them, though sadly, not all, will never forget.

(Foreground left-to-right): Dale Holland, Pam Offerdahl and Kendra Goette, all North Dakota residents, listen as an event speaker relates loosing her mother to Alzheimer’s Disease.
More than 30 participants begin the 5K run around Rendezvous Park, located directly behind the Aurora Elementary School.
About 500 participants of the 2012 Walk to End Alzheimer’s Metro Walk & 5K Run begin the 2.4 mile walk through Rendezvous Park Sept. 15, 2012.
“That’s so sweet,” Tonya Sorenson said of her 4-year-old son Samuel, who stood alongside the 5K route to give runners high-fives as they neared the finish line. “He just went out and started doing it.”
Trish Kraft, 36, finishes the 5K run strong as her daughter Emma lies asleep in the stroller.


The effect

For many, the morning ended much as it had begun, with high hopes, a strong spirit and a dream of living in this world free from Alzheimer’s Disease. The Alzheimer’s Association brought this dream another step closer to reality, educating and instilling a passion for life in the hundreds of supporters in attendance, as well as raising a substantial $48,000 for its organization.

As the event draws to an end, members of “Team Granny” pose for one last photo before leaving.


About Alzheimer’s Disease

To date, there is no proven method of preventing, curing, or slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease. It is the most common form of dementia – an illness marked by loss of cognitive function – and is the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S., afflicting 1 in 200 people. For more information about Alzheimer’s Disease, visit WebMD online.

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