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Hundreds walk for Alzheimer's: Families, supporters take part in event aimed at disease research

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Brian Powell walked with memories of camping and fishing with his dad — mental images of them bonding until their bond was broken.

About six or seven years ago, Bill Powell, always the practical joker, began showing signs of losing his mind, leaving his family to wonder if it was an act for laughs. Turns out, there wasn’t anything funny about it.

Bill Powell had Alzheimer’s. He died in 2008.

The Alzheimer’s Association brought more than 300 people to Mill Race Center on Saturday Morning for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, a 1-mile or 2.6 mile stroll through Mill Race Park and parts of the People’s Trail. Nearly $80,000 was raised and endless stories were shared by families affected by the disease.

“You’re around people who have been through it or are going through it,” said Brian Powell, who traveled from Whiteland to walk with a group of 13 family members and friends. Powell’s father-in-law, Bill Anderson, also has Alzheimer’s.

“To try and cope with it by yourself is just overwhelming.”

Events like the Walk to End Alzheimer’s help ease the Powell family’s pain. The Alzheimer’s Association organizes 15 annual walks throughout Indiana and 600 in the U.S. The month’s final walk in Indiana is scheduled for Oct. 27 in Jasper.

About 5.4 million people have Alzheimer’s, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

“I’ve heard of people as young as 45 who have it,” said Kristi McCann, community services liaison for the Alzheimer’s Association.

McCann knows the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s all too well. Her dad was diagnosed with the disease before he died of cancer. She has a grandmother living with the disease and four of her grandmother’s siblings died from it.

“I want a cure,” McCann said. “I don’t want to get it.”

North Vernon resident Jewell LaMaster posted on her Facebook page that she was walking Saturday for her 69-year-old husband, Tim LaMaster, who’s been living with Alzheimer’s since 2003. He stays in a nursing home in Greensburg, nearly an hour’s drive away from his wife. The disease is hurting her heart and her pocketbook.

She pays $2,000 to care for her husband, leaving her with about $1,300 a month to pay for utilities, gas and groceries. She has no job.

“I cry, cry a lot,” she said. “I miss him every day.”

Jewell LaMaster walked with her friend, Joyce Stamper, and son, Matthew Sowers.

Brian Powell carried a cell phone in his pocket. He wished he had his old phone so he could listen to a message he’d saved for so long. It was a voice mail from his father wishing him a happy birthday.

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