‘Walk, Run, Bike’ taking on Alzheimer’s

WINNEBAGO – Alzheimer’s is a devastating disease that no one wants to talk about. Kathy Dressen wants to change that.

She is working to get people involved in the Second Annual 5-Mile Walk, Run or Bike Ride, beginning 8 a.m. Saturday in Winnebago, starting at the gazebo by the swimming pool.

There is a $5 fee per person. Participants can enjoy free swimming after the ride.

“It’s a fun event,” Dressen said. “Nice to have something for families that’s affordable.”

The route is in town and laid out so participants can determine how long they want to walk, run or bike.

“Don’t feel like you have to finish it,” Dressen said.

So far, 75 people have pre-registered, but participants can sign up Saturday as well.

Dressen said the event is as much about reaching out to survivors as it is about remembering those lost.

“It’s important to have a family connection,” she said. “They’ve made it through this; we can too. What I like is it really brings families together. It makes your family stronger.”

Dressen conceived the idea for an athletic event as a way to honor her own mother, Dorothy Maine, who died Oct. 31, 2011. Maine had Alzheimer’s for about seven years, Dressen said.

“I’m a walker,” Dressen said. “I try to walk every day and that’s when I do my thinking.

“You feel so helpless when your mom or loved one has Alzheimer’s,” Dressen said. “I thought at least we can raise awareness. [The Ride] seemed like a good fit.”

Dressen’s co-workers at First Financial Bank are helping her organize the Ride. Last year’s event attracted 75 participants and raised $4,500 for the Alzheimer’s Research Center in St. Paul. This year’s profits will go to Health Partners Center for Memory and Aging in St. Paul.

This year, the Ride will recognize the family of Joan Becker, who died in 2008, said her daughter, Joyce Eastvold.

“What an honor it is; we are just speechless,” Eastvold said of herself and her 10 siblings.

Eastvold said most of her siblings are planning to take part Saturday, as are numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

“I talked to Joyce when my mom was still alive,” said Dressen, adding that the things Eastvold said would resonate because she was going through the same.

Dressen said Alzheimer’s mainly affected her mother’s language skills, but that Maine always seemed to recognize her daughter and would kiss her goodbye.

Eastvold thinks her mother was beginning to get Alzheimer’s in 1999, but her father, Ray Maine, took care of his wife for years, so the kids didn’t know how bad off their mother was until after their dad’s death.

“We tried for three, four months to stay with mother,” Eastvold said. “Finally, [Dr. Terry] Cahill said, ‘I know it’s hard, but if your mom was in a protected environment, you’d know she’d be taken care of.’

“It’s so tough for families. Unless you’ve been there, you don’t know,” she said.

In the early 1900s, Dr. Aloysius Alzheimer identified the pre-senile dementia condition that would later bear his name. Unfortunately, not much has changed in more than a century.

“There’s no definitive test they can do at this time. We’re no closer to a cure,” said Eastvold. “It breaks my heart.”

To register for the Ride, call First Financial Bank at (507) 893-3155 or e-mail kathy.dressen@1stbago.com