Volunteers help organize walk to support the Alzheimer’s Association

KCRG-TV9's Ethan Stein shows us the story behind one of the Walk to End Alzheimer's organizers in Sunday's Show You Care spotlight.
Published: Sep. 18, 2022 at 11:29 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - The walks to support different causes on weekends have numerous signs, speakers, bottles of water, maps and music.

Gary Wicklund, who is from Coralville, is one of those volunteers helping to organize a successful walk for the Alzheimer’s Association. He said he’s raising and donating more than $200,000 to different organizations over his lifetime to find a cure to the disease, which destroys memory and the body’s ability to do other basic functions.

”I started in 1978,” Wicklund said.

Wicklund said he’s served on the Alzheimer’s Association Iowa Chapter’s board for around 20 years. He said one of the many motivating factors for being so involved is his mother, Edna, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

“We used to come up to Iowa City with my six-year-old and visit a care center here,” Wicklund said. “And she was excited to see him, but she didn’t know me and I really felt like I lost her about five to six years into her disease.”

Wicklund said to ensure a care home didn’t lose her the home tied her down to the chair.

”It was hard,” Wicklund said. “I lost her before she physically passed away.”

Marc Hall, who is the walk manager for the Alzheimer’s Association, said there are only two full-time employees helping to organize two walks in two separate cities within one week. He said the organization depends on volunteers, like Wicklund, to help create successful events.

”Gary is like a backbone,” Hall said. “I mean you build on the Garys of the world. They just contribute and take that leadership role and have the communication skills needed by somebody in that leadership role.”

He also said Wicklund increases people’s awareness of the nonprofit and its events due to his connections in the community.

The Alzheimer’s Association is organizing another walk to find a cure on Saturday, September 24 at the McGrath Amphitheater in Cedar Rapids. As of Friday, 274 walkers and 67 teams are registered and have raised more than $100,000.