FLORHAM PARK, NJ — Determined to continue the fight to end Alzheimer’s despite the obstacles that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented, the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater New Jersey (AAGNJ) will host its annual Essex-Hudson-Union (EHU) Walk to End Alzheimer’s digitally this year and encourages residents of those counties to participate.

On Sept. 26, participants in the EHU event will be invited to walk as individuals, families or small teams on sidewalks, tracks and trails throughout their neighborhoods to support the battle against a disease that remains the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States.

“Our 2020 walks may look different, due to the pandemic, but are still occurring in neighborhoods and communities across our entire country,” said Cheryl Ricci-Francione, executive director of AAGNJ. “We believe that it’s safer for our walkers, our volunteers and our staff members not to convene in one large group this year. However, our need to walk and to raise funds is now greater than ever."

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“The COVID-19 crisis has elevated social isolation and fear in those impacted by dementias. The Alzheimer’s Association proudly provides them with comfort, care and support during these difficult times, while continuing to drive critical research and essential public policy initiatives forward.”

In addition to the physical walking component, other time-honored aspects of the annual event are also being replicated for the digital format.

These will include an opening ceremony featuring local speakers; a presentation of “Promise Flowers” to honor the personal reasons participants join together to fight Alzheimer’s; and the iconic “Promise Garden” to honor all those impacted by Alzheimer’s and other dimentias.

In order enhance the participant experience leading up to the event and on the day of the EHU Walk, new features are being added to the Walk to End Alzheimer’s mobile app to create an opportunity for the community to connect.

The app features a new “Walk Mainstage'' for participants to track their steps and distance, follow a virtual walk path, manage their Facebook fundraisers and access information and resources from the Alzheimer’s Association and event sponsors to help individuals and families affected by the disease. A new audio track is also available to encourage participants along the way and to congratulate them upon completion of their walk.

“Alzheimer’s is not taking a hiatus during COVID-19 and neither are we,” said AAGNJ Walk Manager Kayla Klinzing. “We must continue Walk to End Alzheimer’s, and we are working with all participants to ensure they have a powerful and moving experience that is felt when we are together. 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.”

According to AAGNJ, more than 5-million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer's disease, and more than 16-million family members and friends provide care to people living with Alzheimer’s and other dimentias.

In New Jersey alone, there are more than 190,000 people living with the disease and 448,000 unpaid caregivers.

The Walk to End Alzheimer’s—held annually in more than 600 communities nationwide—is the world’s largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research.

Since the inaugural event in 1989, the walk has mobilized millions of Americans in the fight against the disease and continues to lead the way. In 2019 alone, nearly 65,000 teams participated in more than 600 walks across the country, raising more than $98 million.

Although the Walk to End Alzheimer’s has historically been a large community gathering, the Alzheimer’s Association felt that hosting a large-scale in-person event would not be in the best health interests of constituents, volunteers and staff based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and current data related to the spread of COVID-19.  Instead, they created powerful opportunities for supporters to stay engaged in the 2020 walks, with their new mobile app, and interactive digital platforms to convene.

All registered walkers will have the flags mailed to their homes. Additionally, those who raise $100 or more will have their 2020 walk t-shirt mailed directly to their home address, this year.

When announcing the transition to a digital format in 2020, the Alzheimer’s Association stated that any decision to gather in person in the future will be “fully informed by the scientific and local guidelines to ensure the health and safety of constituents, volunteers and staff.”

To register and receive the latest updates on this year’s digital Walk to End Alzheimer’s, visit: alz.org/njwalk. 

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