With Different Format, Walk to End Alzheimer’s Seeks to Raise Funds, Awareness

Eileen Bridgham-Kounios, center, on her wedding day, surrounded by her parents. Bridgham-Kounios is Team Retention Chair for the Putnam Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

Dementia has touched Eileen Bridgham-Kounios of Carmel’s life twice on her father’s side – both her father and his mother had Alzheimer’s. Now she worries the condition is hereditary and that she may be at risk as well. As a volunteer with the Putnam Walk to End Alzheimer’s, she says she is driven out of a hope for a better future. 

“I’m so happy to be a part of it and do what I can,” Bridgham-Kounios said. “I personally believe it’s hereditary. I’m a little worried about myself and what’s going to happen with me. The more I can do to create a better future for myself gives me more motivation to participate and do my part helping the Alzheimer’s Association get to their goal of a world without Alzheimer’s and other dementia.”

The 2020 Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Putnam County is being held on Oct. 10. The goal is to raise $85,000. The Westchester Walk is a week earlier, on Oct. 4. It features a $650,000 fundraising goal and is being chaired by Carmel’s Janette Licastrino.  She is also a caregiver for her mother, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2015 and has been living with her since Dec. 

Licastrino said signs started becoming apparent in her mother about a year after her retirement in 2011. 

“I think 2012 was when we started realizing that she wasn’t herself,” Licastrino said, noting that the changes surfaced in simple things like cooking, shopping habits and cleaning. 

Licastrino also noted the challenges COVID-19 has created in motivating people to get involved. 

“Right now, people are very hesitant about committing to anything,” she observed. “We’re not walking with everyone — we’re walking with our own team. You can go out on your deck and walk a few steps.”

Held annually in more than 600 communities nationwide, the Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s bills itself as the world’s largest fundraiser for Alzheimer’s care, support and research. This year’s event won’t be a large in-person gathering due to the virus.

Janette Licastrino, on the right, with her brother and mother.

“This year, Walk to End Alzheimer’s is everywhere — on every sidewalk, track and trail,” the organization’s website said. “On event day, we invite you to participate in small, safe teams while others in your community do the same.”

There is no fee to register for the walk but all participants are encouraged to raise funds.

To register for the Putnam Walk or to make a donation, visit PutnamWalk.org. For the Westchester Walk, visit WestchesterWalk.org.