This year, the Grundy Area Vocational Center’s Health Occupations students beat their personal record and raised more than $1,500 for the Alzheimer’s Association Walk in Joliet, Ill.
About 35 students participated in the walk/run by the Greater Illinois Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association Saturday, Oct. 6 at Rock Run Forest Preserve. This is the sixth year the class has participated in the walk, GAVC instructor Ruth Ann Squellati said.
The mission of the association is “to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health,” according to the association’s website.
The students raised $1,592 for Alzheimer’s research. In previous years, they have raised about $500. The students raised the money individually.
“We were all really excited because our goal was set at $650,” Squellati said. “It all came in at the end, so it was a huge surprise.”
Squellati believes the donation increase came from the second-year students who have been working closely with patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia. The second year students work at Morris Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center and Walnut Grove Retirement Village as certified nursing assistants through the Health Occupations program.
New students to the program started working with these patients last week.
“Without the community to support (the walk), we truly wouldn’t be able to find cures,” said Heidi Bunting, senior at Morris Community High School and second-year Health Occupations student.
At the walk, the students learned Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the country, and it is the only leading cause with no known cause, treatment or cure, Squellati said.
Kelsey Galan, junior at Gardner-South Wilmington High School and first-year GAVC student, knows this fact all too well.
“My great-grandpa died of Alzheimer’s about six years ago,” she said.
She walked in memory of her great-grandfather.
“He didn’t remember us. ... I just wanted to do something to support a cure,” Galan said.
The victims of this disease are in the hearts of the students due to their work at the local nursing homes.
“That’s how the students get their hands on experience and get to know the patients who suffer with Alzheimer’s or dementia, and clearly they have an interest,” Squellati said.
At the walk, students also learned that 210,000 Illinois residents have Alzheimer’s and 5.4 million Americans have the disease.
“The more people we can help, it will be a better place for them and the people around them,” said Cesar Saavedra, senior at Morris High School and second-year student in Health Occupations.
Walkers were given flower yard ornaments to dedicate to loved ones, and many of the students dedicated them to family members or in honor of the Morris nursing homes.
For more information on Alzheimer’s Disease, visit www.alz.org/illinois. For more information on the Grundy Area Vocational Center, visit gavc-il.org.