Nine-year-old Gavin Rutter is out to raise $5,000 for the Alzheimer Society of B.C., and as he started the final week of his campaign, the Abbotsford boy had already hit more than $3,000.
Alzheimer’s campaigning is not the usual sort of activity one associates with boys in the fourth grade, but Gavin was sparked into action by a little girl from Chilliwack he knows only as Campbell.
Gavin’s grandmother, Jillian Armit, is involved with the annual Investors Group Walk for Memories, which is coming up again this Sunday in Chilliwack. It is the Alzheimer’s fundraiser for a region that extends from Abbotsford and Mission to Hope, and Armit is a support and education coordinator for the Alzheimer Society.
At last year’s event, little Gavin watched his grandma up on stage, as she acknowledged little Campbell for being the youngest fundraiser with the most money. Gavin was shocked. Here was a girl no older than him, up on stage with his grandma, as the toast of the town. Campbell told the audience how she raised the money at hockey games and at schools.
“It looked like it felt good to talk on the microphone,” Gavin recalls, getting a laugh from Armit, who clearly enjoys her unselfconscious grandson.
So, this year Gavin got to work on his own fundraising, including helping to build a website where visitors can learn more about the walk, about his campaign, and donate.
On the site is a video of Gavin with his Great Grandma Frances, who suffers from dementia, and he talks about the disease. The address is www.helpmakememories.com.
He has also helped out on the committee that organizes Sunday’s walk – the bouncy castle and temporary tattoos were just two of his ideas. In fact, the first question he asked was whether it was possible to have too many ideas.
“At the meeting everyone clapped when I said I made almost $3,000,” Gavin recalls.
The walk will also feature Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley impersonators. And the amount of walking required is limited to the participant’s comfort level.
“It’s like a winter carnival,” said Armit. “It’s a nice afternoon.”
These walks, held across B.C. also collectively raised about $650,000 for the Alzheimer Society last year. The regional walk raised $26,000.
“It’s about raising money, raising awareness and people are there to honour that person with dementia, or remember that person with dementia,” she added.
Gavin also hands out little cards promoting the walk, with his website www.helpmakememories.com printed on them.
“Grandpa (Wayne Armit) hands them out to everyone he sees, almost,” Gavin observes, revealing that grandma’s efforts in recruiting helpers go beyond her grandson.
Gavin makes an impression too. He was on the West Coast Express train that runs from Mission to Vancouver, and handed out the cards to commuters. One man was so impressed, he went home and tweeted the address to his friends, and donations started rolling in on the website.
Most people have a family member or know someone who has Alzheimer’s, Armit explains. Every five minutes someone in Canada develops dementia
Gavin has been named the captain of his fundraising team.
“It’s great,” he asserts. “I’ve never been captain of anything before.”
There are prizes for the fundraisers, and Gavin wonders aloud whether he will win an iPad.
He called Campbell on the phone for the first time last week, and Armit overheard a very adult-sounding conversation about Alzheimer’s.
They talked about how they have to get a cure before they are adults, Gavin explained.
“I want a world without Alzheimer’s.”
Walk for memories
This year’s Investors Group Walk for Memories will be held on Sunday, indoors at the Landing Sports Centre at 45530 Spadina Avenue in Chilliwack. Registration is at 1 p.m., and the walk is from 2-4 p.m.
Participants are invited to register early and get their pledges online, through the website www.walkformemories.com. There is no cost to register. Donors will receive tax receipts automatically by email, for donations of $15 or more.
Funds raised through the walk go to support people whose lives have been impacted by dementia, and toward research for a cure.
There are prizes for fundraisers, from cooler bags to a $75 Tim Horton’s gift card.
This year’s walk is dedicated to Richard Kostrzewa. He is a retired school bus driver, and the husband of Dorothy, a long-time Chilliwack city councillor. He was a dedicated athlete, who won B.C. Seniors Games medals for swimming. He is now one of more than 70,000 individuals in B.C. living with dementia.
Diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimers disease and other dementias is delayed by a lack of awareness.
A national survey showed:
- 44 per cent of respondents waited a year before seeing a doctor because they took their symptoms as typical signs of “old age.”
- 39 per cent thought their symptoms were episodic, and didn’t take them seriously.
- More than 25 per cent refused to see their doctor, and so no need unless their symptoms grew worse.
- 75 per cent wish they had known sooner for earlier access to treatment to minimize symptoms, for better understanding of the disease, and for and more time to prepare for the future.
Memory loss continues to be the most frequently mentioned symptom, but others symptoms are also significant.
- 75 per cent of respondents listed “frequent memory loss” as one of the early signs.
- Close to two thirds (65 per cent) also listed disorientation of time and place, such as getting lost in familiar places or not knowing what month or year it is.
- Close to two thirds (64 per cent) listed changes in personality or acting out of character, like becoming suspicious, fearful or confused.