Elkridge resident Brent Jones will be returning for the second year in a row to chair the Walk to End Alzheimer’s at Centennial Park in Ellicott City on Saturday morning.
The walk is the first of six walks sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Association Greater Maryland Chapter, with the goal of raising $140,000 at the Howard walk to provide Alzheimer’s care, research and support, according to a news release.
Jones, 47, who is the deputy director of Emerge Inc., a Columbia-based nonprofit that supports individuals with developmental, mental health and physical disabilities, will be serving as the Emerge walk team captain.
During the walk, Emerge clients and staff will be assisting at stations and on the trail, cheering on walkers at the start and finish line, passing out water and providing shuttles.
“Brent is relentless, passionate and energetic about finding a cure for Alzheimer’s and it drives everything he does. He puts so much time and energy into raising awareness on a daily basis to ‘Paint Howard County Purple’ and I think he will do it,” Katie Bittinger, constituent events manager for the Howard County walk, said in the release.
Jones said the partnership between the Alzheimer’s Association Howard County and Emerge has allowed the organizations to raise awareness of the relationship between Alzheimer’s and those with special needs.
“The partnership has built up some relationships between folks that are within the community that may not have otherwise known how folks with disabilities are affected and impacted by Alzheimer’s, dementia and the different pieces of care that goes into that,” Jones said.
As they age, people with Down syndrome have a greatly increased risk of developing a type of dementia that is either the same as or similar to Alzheimer’s, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
The association says autopsy studies show that, by age 40, the brains of almost all people with Down syndrome have significant levels of abnormal protein deposits that are considered signs of Alzheimer’s.
Despite these brain changes, however, not everyone with Down syndrome develops symptoms of Alzheimer’s. One of the questions researchers are trying to answer about Down syndrome is why only some people develop dementia symptoms.
The fight to end Alzheimer’s is personal for Jones, whose grandmother died from the disease.
“Alzheimer’s is a progressive and fatal disease that is devastating our families, our finances and our future,” Jones said in the release. “The walk provides the resources needed to provide education and support to the millions who face dementia every day, while advancing critical research toward methods of treatment, prevention and, ultimately, a cure.”
Jones said he hopes the walk will result in lasting friendships and partnerships.
“[We hope] to spark a movement where folks that have disabilities come out and they pick the things that they choose to fight for and we help them in our fight to fight for things as well,” Jones said.
As of Wednesday, 436 participants have signed up for the walk. People can donate or register for the walk by calling 800-272-3900 or going to alz.org/maryland/walk.