Santa Barbara’s Chase Palm Park and Cabrillo Boulevard were painted purple Saturday morning, with more than 400 participants donning their purple T-shirts and taking over the beachfront for this year’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s.
The Alzheimer’s Association Central Coast Chapter hosted the event, which brought 428 registered walkers and 77 teams to walk the 5k route and raised more than $134,000 toward care, support, and research efforts.
Alzheimer’s is now the third leading cause of death in California, and the number of people living with the disease is expected to double in the next 20 years, according to data released by the California Department of Public Health and the Alzheimer’s Association in 2021.
Event Chair Gabriella Garcia — who worked with the Alzheimer’s Association for more than a decade and now serves as executive director of Storyteller Children’s Center in Santa Barbara — shared her own experiences caring for her grandfather, Jose Paramo, who passed away after a long fight with the disease in 2012.
“I was his voice when he no longer had one, and it has been one of the greatest honors of my life,” Garcia said. “I truly believe that together we can end Alzheimer’s, and I can tell by looking out into this sea of purple that I’m not alone.”
She said that the costs of care are escalating into the billions of dollars as more people are affected by the disease, but there are currently more than 920 projects in 45 countries across the world that are researching ways to slow the cognitive decline related to Alzheimer’s and dementia.
The lawn at Chase Palm Park was flowing with hundreds of flowers spinning in the wind, each color representing someone’s personal connection with the disease: orange for those who support Alzheimer’s awareness and research; yellow for those who care for someone currently living with Alzheimer’s; blue for those living with Alzheimer’s; and purple for anyone who has lost a loved one to the disease.
Garcia was joined on stage by her son, Lucca, who was holding a new white flower, which she explained represents the first survivor of Alzheimer’s that future generations will one day see due to the research and clinical trials taking place now.
“We’re making progress,” she said.
Several locals shared their own stories, including Gene Lucas, a former executive vice chancellor at UC Santa Barbara who recently lost both his wife and sister-in-law after long battles with Alzheimer’s. Lucas said caring for his wife while watching the disease slowly take hold was “probably the hardest” thing he’s ever done.
“You see them disappear a little bit every day,” Lucas said.
After the opening ceremony at the park, Mayor Randy Rowse counted down to the start of the walk and the group marched down Cabrillo.
With $134,998 raised so far, the Alzheimer’s Association has reached more than 57 percent of its goal for this year, but the nonprofit hopes to reach $237,000 by December 31. This year’s top fundraising teams were the Alzheimer’s Women’s Initiative, Team Carpinteria, and Team Union Bank, with a combined $35,000 between the three teams.
For details, or to donate before the end of the year, visit the Alzheimer’s Association website.