FAIRBORN — On Oct. 3, friends and family of Merrell Hill, as well as members of Maple Heights Baptist Church, gathered on the church grounds to conduct what was possibly the pluckiest Walk to End Alzheimer’s in the region.
The Fairborn community’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s was a small affair, with little to none of the pomp and circumstance of the previous year’s event in downtown Dayton. However, the gathering at Maple Heights had just as much, if not more, heart and spirit than that of any other events held that day.
Merrell Hill had attended last year’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s with her husband, Glen, and members of her large extended family. This year, she would organize the walk in her own community, to take place exactly one month after Glen lost his battle with the disease.
According to his obituary, Glenmore Hill passed away after a long battle with dementia and a short battle with COVID-19. Though he contracted the coronavirus toward the end of his life, family members said Alzheimer’s was by far the major contributor to his declining health.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s is a degenerative brain disease affecting 50 million people around the world. The condition is characterized by significant loss of memory, including dates, events, or names. People with Alzheimer’s also suffer from the inability to do familiar tasks, difficulty speaking or writing, and an increase in poor judgment.
COVID-19 concerns have exacerbated the stresses placed on families dealing with Alzheimer’s, as caregivers are restricted in their ability to travel to patients’ homes. In the six months of lockdown before his death, Merrell Hill had to take care of her husband practically on her own.
The Fairborn Walk to End Alzheimer’s took three months of planning. Merrell Hill said she drew on her experience raising money for the Children’s Miracle Network. Pastor Chris Tannreuther offered the use of the church property to host the event. She and her family prepared food and baked goods to sell, and charged a walk registration fee of $5. All proceeds benefited the Alzheimer’s Association.
“It feels closer,” she said. “This is like a community outreach thing for us. Normally we wouldn’t have that at the big walk.”
Tannreuther led the gathering in prayer before attendees began the walk around the perimeter of the church property. A smaller walk was available around the perimeter of the parking lot. This year, Merrell Hill would carry a single purple flower, which signifies that the bearer has lost someone to Alzheimer’s disease.
“It’s very emotional,” she said. “I couldn’t think of anything to do except a small walk. It’s hard to do anything with this COVID, but it means a lot that people come out and support me.”
Merrell Hill said this is likely her last year raising money for the Alzheimer’s Association. Her three children, 18 grandchildren, and 15 great-grandchildren keep her busy.
“It’s probably my last walk, unless they physically ask me, which they did this year,” she said.
At time of writing, the total of all Dayton area walks had raised $268,111 for the Alzheimer’s Association.