Alzheimer’s Disease Memory Walk & Festival Held In Massapequa


Marjorie Post Park Hosts Festival In Remembrance And To Combat Alzheimer’s Disease

ADRC Executive Director and CEO Lauren Vlachos (left) with Director of Operations & Volunteer Engagement Maria Prendergast (right).
(Photos courtesy of Lauren Feldman)

It was a cool cloudy Saturday morning in Massapequa’s Marjorie Post Park, but this did nothing to dim the light of friends, families and community members who had gathered to remember and combat a terrible disease. The Alzheimer’s Disease Resource Center (ADRC) put on their annual Memory Walk & Spring Festival; the conclusion to months of organizing and planning. Led by Lauren Vlachos, CEO and Executive Director of ADRC, as well as a hoard of volunteers and ADRC members, the festival brought together a community of those affected by memory decline conditions.

Visitors were invited to form teams for the walk around the park, which would kick off the festival. This included “Team Come On, Eileen”, the Kiwanis Club of LI, “Team Irwin’s Champions” and “Team Lois”. Lois Martin, who would have been 91 that day, was afflicted with Alzheimer’s for many years. Her granddaughter approached the microphone to say some words about her.

Team Lois members, including great-granddaughter Lily, cut the ribbon to begin the Alzheimer’s walk.

“She was a generous woman who led a really inspirational life. She had a heart full of joy, and a smile that could make anyone smile. I was lucky enough to call her my Grannie. For many years, Grannie battled Alzheimer’s, which truly stripped her of her memory little by little. Although her joyous spirit remained deep down, her memories did not.” Lois’ granddaughter continued, “I have the most incredible memories of my Grannie growing up and seeing these same memories – and countless others – being stolen from her was devastating.”

She believed if Lois could have been present at the event, she would have said ‘thank you’. “It’s important for us to do what we can always, because no matter how big or small, it makes a difference.” Team Lois has been walking for many years, and this was the first year that her great-granddaughter, two-year-old Lily, came to walk as well. Lois’ granddaughter ended her speech with a wish. “My hope is that, in my lifetime, we won’t be fighting to end Alzheimer’s, we will be celebrating Alzheimer’s end. Memories should be forever.”

Team “Come On Eileen”.

Following the walk was a festival throughout the park. Activities included live music, games, a roaming photo booth, tasty samples from local restaurants and cafes, and more. The Massapequa Fire Department brought a truck for children to interact with, and the Sheriff / K9 team also made an appearance. Several Long Island senior healthcare organizations set up booths to inform visitors about resources and possibilities in caring for a loved one with declining memory, as well as give out various goodies and prizes.

The “Memory Tree” at the festival, where visitors could pay respect and remembrance of lost or struggling loved ones.

Centered along the walk was a small, unassuming tree, which had been adorned in purple hearts and butterflies. It was on this tree that visitors could hang a tag with a name or message for a loved one who battled Alzheimer’s, a family or friend who helped care for someone with the disease, or any other message of hope, perseverance, and love. This space allowed visitors a moment of peace and reflection – among all the fun of the festival – for a disease which has devastated the lives of so many.

Vlachos looked out over the crowd with a gleam in her eye. This was her first year at the Memory Walk, and she could not have been happier with the results. “It’s really very exciting. We’ve been planning this since September. Seeing so many people come out and support us has been great. A lot of these families here access our services, whether they come to art therapy program, our music therapy program, or they participate in our support groups. It’s great to see them here with us.”

Many games, including life-sized Connect-4, were available for
children to play.

The walk and festival is the ARDC’s biggest fundraising event of the year, but is also about awareness; “Making sure the community knows that we’re here, that everything we offer is free to families across Long Island. And it really helps us bring in the resources we need to offer those services,” Vlachos said. The outpouring of support has been tremendous, and she has even higher hopes for next year’s festival. “I want a thousand people in this park, I want us to take over the park!”

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