The Birches Walks to End Alzheimer’s for the 16th Year

Written by Jenny Smiechowski, staff writer for The Birches

The Birches Assisted Living’s “Team Birches” participated in the Alzheimer’s Association’s annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s for the 16th year in a row on Sunday, joining more than 1,800 walkers from Chicago’s western suburbs.

Walkers began at North Central College’s Recreation Center and continued through the residential area outside of downtown Naperville, completing a three-mile loop.

In the weeks leading up to the walk, Team Birches raised money through a book sale, a bake sale, selling daisies and taking donations from friends and family. The team’s fundraising goal for the walk was $3,000, but they far exceeded it by raising nearly $5,500, which put the team among the top 15 fundraisers for the Naperville walk. All funds raised for the Walk go to the Alzheimer’s Association’s research efforts and supportive services.

“This has been one of our best fundraising years, because we beat our goal and we got everyone involved in creative fundraising activities,” said Birches’ Director of Encore and Memory Care Services Katie Schaff Fagan. “We’re proud to contribute to the cause and to show our support by walking every year.”

This year, Team Birches included 26 walkers, and several team members came to support family members who are currently living with the disease or who passed away with the disease.

Encore Activities Assistant Mary Sandoval, for example, lost her mom to Lewy body dementia in April. She attended the walk with her daughter to honor her mom and support the Birches residents she works with.

“I work with people who have Alzheimer’s every day. I get them involved in activities like painting and poetry, but I want to do everything I can to help them and that includes this walk,” said Sandoval.

Birches’ Cook Vasso Karounos who also attended the walk with her daughter, came to honor her mom who passed away with Alzheimer’s, as well as other family members with the disease.

“We walk for my mother and other family members who have had the disease. It helps to get out and do something,” said Karounos.

Team Birches member Marc Silhan’s mother has been living in the Birches memory care neighborhood Encore for a year and a half. She has faced other major health challenges over the years, but Alzheimer’s has been the hardest.

“She overcame breast cancer many years ago, and now she’s physically healthy, but she has Alzheimer’s, so I came for her,” said Silhan.

After 16 years of participating in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, Team Birches has contributed over $70,000 to help end Alzheimer’s disease, and the team plans to continue their efforts to make life better for people with the disease.

“We love participating in the walk, because it’s empowering to join together with other people who are doing what they can to improve life for people with Alzheimer’s too,” said Birches Executive Director Jackie Sander. “It’s something we do at The Birches year-round in any way we can, whether through public programs, fundraising events or this walk. It’s an important part of our mission.”