East Vail man goes long distance for Alzheimer’s
Special to the Daily
Vail, CO Colorado
Fred Wolfe, an East Vail resident who lost his father after a long fight with Alzheimer’s Disease, has walked from Denver to Vail four times to raise money and awareness for the disease. He wrote this story during his journey last month.
My father, Larry Wolfe, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in 2002. All of the memories we shared throughout our lifetime were still with me, but my father slowly lost sight of them until they were all gone. The disease compromised his health and he died last year from a heart attack.
Before he died I decided to do something to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s Disease. “A Walk to Remember” is a way to honor and remember my dad while raising awareness and money for research to find a cure.
It’s not about me, it’s about the disease. People don’t give to causes – I believe people give to people.
Early on Sunday morning, June 29, I met friends, family and the CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado to start my fourth walk from Denver to Vail. The first day I moved pretty quickly through Denver and 31 miles up along Clear Creek to El Rancho.
I stopped just once to talk with a reporter from Channel 2 news. It always amazes me how little of the interview they get on the air, but it was nice they asked for an interview.
The second day, I got up early again and headed toward Georgetown, 25 miles away. I stopped in Idaho Springs this time to meet up with a reporter from the Clear Creek Courant.
Linda Trenbeath was great and walked with me for quite a few miles, talking the entire way. It breaks up the walk when I have good company, but I tend not to stop for snacks so if you plan to join me next year consider yourself warned!
The trek up Loveland Pass was pretty tough. Last year I went up over the Loveland Ski area to spread dad’s ashes on top of the Continental Divide and I won’t do that again. I had to pick my way down the west side pretty carefully ” would have been bad form to fall at that point.
As I got to the top of the pass this year, it was cold and drizzly so people were parked and staying in their warm cars. As I headed down, I heard someone whistle and figured I had dropped something. I heard it a second time and a man came rushing up to me with his hands full of crumpled bills. He thrust them at me saying he was from Baton Rouge.
I told him I couldn’t take the cash but gave him an envelope and asked him to go home and send me what he could. He was just one of the many wonderful people who stopped me to share their own personal story about this terrible disease.
I was so glad to arrive in Keystone on my way to Dillon ” my goal for the 32-mile day. This is one of the longest and hardest legs of the trip. If you asked me at that point whether I would do the walk again, I probably would have said no. Exhausted, I fell into bed early but not before talking with Bill Husted from the Denver Post. He’d heard about my walk and asked to chat in person.
This morning I am up and heading toward Frisco. This is my easiest day. I just have to walk about six miles around the reservoir to Frisco. I really enjoy this relaxing part of my walk and I always manage to meet many people. This day gives me much needed rest.
I wanted to get to Vail early and still had 26 miles to go, so I was up and out at 3 a.m. It was still dark, but nice and cool. Trevor Brown met me for coffee at Copper Mountain and it was nice to have company as we entered the home stretch. When we got to the top of Vail Pass, Sara Spaulding from the Alzheimer’s Association was there to meet us with cold drinks.
I was so sick of Gatorade at this point, though, so I asked for a beer. I had been up since 3 a.m. so it was lunchtime for me. Trevor and I were hot already so we shed some layers before heading down the pass.
We walked right by our house in East Vail but planned to meet the family near the covered bridge, so I had to keep pushing on. My legs started to cramp up as we got close. Robyn Moore from the Alzheimer’s Association was there to have me take some photos before I could head home.
My granddaughter walked the last few feet with me and that was the sweetest part of the trip for me. I was greeted by another gift of $50 from someone with another Alzheimer’s story ” unfortunately there are just too many of us who have been touched by this disease.
Every donation has helped me reach my goal. My first year I raised about $18,000, in the second year just over $28,000, the third year nearly $40,000 and my goal this year was $50,000. I had $26,000 raised before I started this year’s walk and as of July 25, I’m thrilled to have actually gone over my goal with $50,370!
My hope is that I can spare other families some of the sorrow I have had in losing my dad and the memories we shared by helping raise money for Alzheimer’s research.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado, 5.2 million people in the United States have the disease. There are 500,000 people under the age of 65 who have what is called Young or Early Onset Alzheimer’s. One in seven people over the age of 65 and 50 percent of those over the age of 85 have the disease.
The greatest risk factor is age, but the risk increases for those with heart disease and diabetes. There are 65,000 people in Colorado living with Alzheimer’s, and for each of those there are three more people whose lives have been changed forever.
Alzheimer’s is a fatal disease and as of now, there is no cure. Those who are diagnosed can live as long as eight to 10 years as the disease progresses. More people die of this disease than of breast and prostate cancer combined.
There are 12 drugs currently in clinical trial offering hope to those who are living with Alzheimer’s. The symptoms include memory loss, confusion, problems with speech, difficulty performing familiar tasks, mood and personality changes, poor judgment, and disorientation to time and place.
The Alzheimer’s Association has a 24-hour Helpline staffed with trained volunteers to help people who call with questions or for assistance with a friend or loved one.800-272-3900
There will be memory walks in Grand Junction on Sept. 13 and in Denver on Sept. 20. For more information, visit http://www.alz.org/co.