When Sarah Armisto heads to SUNY Purchase this Sunday morning for the Westchester Walk to End Alzheimer’s it will be with a heavy heart.
In June, Armisto lost her father, John, to the disease. While it came a few years after he was officially diagnosed, there were warning signs for more than a year before that. He was 72 years old at the time of his death.
Armisto, a Harrison resident, has participated in the past three walks at Purchase, but for the first time she will traverse the campus in his memory.
“It’s definitely going to be different, just knowing that he’s not here,” she said. “For the past five years I’ve watched him deteriorate in front of me. He’s always been physically here, and unfortunately, he lost his battle. But he’s not suffering anymore, there’s no more pain, so it’ll be different because there are no more next steps to the disease.”
On Sunday, Armisto will be one of about 1,500 participants in the second of five walks this fall organized by the Hudson Valley chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. For the third consecutive year she is a volunteer closely involved in the planning of the walk as well as other initiatives for the organization throughout the year.
David Sobel, the president and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association’s Hudson Valley chapter, said that the larger organization with the help of its legions of supporters who come out in force has helped make it the third-leading fundraising outfit in the world for Alzheimer’s research. It is exceeded only by government funding from the United States and China, he said.
The United States plans to increase funding for Alzheimer’s research in Fiscal Year 2020, providing an additional $350 million that will push next year’s total funding to about $2.8 billion, Sobel said. With that type of success, Sobel is optimistic that treatments and a cure for the dreaded disease is closer than ever before.
“We have a tremendous group of advocates who continue to lobby governments to provide us with enough funding so we can find a cure, find the cure for Alzheimer’s,” Sobel said.
Armisto said she, too, is extremely bullish on researchers finding a cure in her lifetime.
“I know we’re going to have a cure,” she said. “So it makes me so happy to know that when I get to that age, the age of my father when he was first diagnosed, that this isn’t going to be something that I’m going to have to worry about. It’s something that can be treated.”
Sobel said more is being learned on a regular basis, including how lifestyle choices could improve your chances of avoiding Alzheimer’s. A healthy diet, exercise, avoiding smoking, refraining from drinking too much alcohol and getting about seven hours sleep a night all help, he said.
For Armisto, having so many people rally around a common issue this Sunday is inspiring.
“At a time when everyone is so divided, this is one of the few issues that can really bring people together no matter what you believe in,” Armisto said.
Last year, the five walks in the Hudson Valley raised just over $1 million, according to Sobel. Last Saturday was the first event, the Putnam County walk. For those who can’t make this Sunday at Purchase, there will also be the Orange/Sullivan walk on Oct. 5, the Dutchess/Ulster Walk on Oct. 19 and the Oct. 20 event in Rockland.
For more information on all of those events, visit https://www.alz.org/hudsonvalley. To register for Sunday’s walk at Purchase, visit www.WestchesterWalk.org. Same-day registration begins at 8:30 a.m. A ceremony commences at 10 a.m. with the walk stepping off at 10:20 a.m.