Saturday was a day of awareness in Columbia County as two organizations worked to shed light on juvenile diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.
About 1:30 p.m., people flocked to the Savannah Rapids Park in brightly colored shirts to take part in the Augusta Walk to Cure Juvenile Diabetes.
The walk, one of five held by JDRF throughout the state, was expected to draw more than 350 people as the organization’s Georgia chapter pushed closer to its $80,000 fundraising goal, Executive Director Trey Moore said.
“It’s all going directly to Type 1 diabetes research,” he said. “Some of that research is actually going on at (Georgia Regents University), as well as several other places around the country.”
David Kiser got an early start on the walk by leading 33 bikers on an 80-mile motorcycle ride through Georgia and South Carolina to raise money for his team, Isabelle’s Prayer. The ride was made in honor of Isabelle Kaemmerling, a 5-year-old friend of Kiser’s daughter who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes last year.
“We’re putting together rides almost every weekend for some kind of charity,” he said.
“There hasn’t really been one for juvenile diabetes, and it’s something that definitely needs to be brought up. We’re going to start doing this every year from here on out.”
Dressed in shirts that read, “Team Awesome Austin,” Clay and Janice Harley took part in the 5K walk. Their 9-year-old son, Austin, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was 2.
Clay Harley said he hoped to raise awareness so other parents know the warning signs, something he wished he had known.
After Austin felt ill for several days, the Harleys took him to a doctor who made the diabetes diagnosis. Clay Harley said it took more than five days in the intensive care unit for Austin to recover.
“We thank the Lord that it’s been very manageable,” he said.
Later Saturday, more than 1,000 people gathered at the Columbia County Amphitheater for the 25th annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s.
The event, held by the Georgia chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, aimed to raise $120,000 to help keep the organization’s services free.
Dee Dee Kurilla, the organization’s director of development, said more than $80,000 had been raised by the start of the walk.
For Trint Martin, the walk was personal. Her 45-year-old daughter suffers from Alzheimer’s and requires around-the-clock care, she said.
“She’s at the stage where we have to do everything for her,” she said. “It’s tough because I feel like I’ve lost a daughter. She’s still here, but I lost what I had of her in the past.”
Laura Brown, the business office coordinator at Elmcroft Senior Living, said events such as the Alzheimer’s walk are important because they can open the eyes of those who might not understand the disease.
“People need to be educated about it and need to know that there is a lot of help out there so that they don’t have to deal with it all on their own,” Brown said.
Despite working with people afflicted with Alzheimer’s every day, Brown said she never thought the disease would surface in her family. Recently, however, her father has begun to show early signs.
“It’s hard to see in someone that you’ve gone to for advice,” she said. “He’s changing. Of course, I will always ask him for advice. But it’s different to see him going, and he’s aware of it also.”
Martin said she was pleased with the turnout but that more could be done to raise awareness.
“It warms my heart, but I want more people,” she said. “We’ll continue on and hope that it grows more and more.”