Purple Angel

Several Eden Heights of Olean residents and staff raise their arms in victory after crossing the finish line during the annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s disease Friday. Staff member Laurie Donner (background, middle), referred to as the “Purple Angel” is the founder and organizer of the walk, which is a forerunner to the Walk to End Alzheimer’s which takes place at 10 a.m. today at Allegany Fireman’s Park.

OLEAN — As the Walk to End Alzheimer’s disease took off at Eden Heights of Olean early Friday, some of the residents did a slow, measured walk while others with walkers told their fellow participants to move out of the way because they were coming through fast.

Such was the mixture of abilities displayed by residents and staff who gathered for the third annual event, which took place along a loop on the driveway and road in front of the assisted living and memory care facility on South 25th Street.

“The walk is designed to raise awareness for our friends, both past and present, suffering with dementia,” Eden Heights employee Laurie Donner, who founded the event, told people gathered.

Most were dressed in purple clothing of some type, which is the color representative of Alzheimer’s awareness. A number also carried large, colorful plastic flowers donated by the Alzheimer’s Association and representative of various stages of Alzheimer’s disease for victims and their loved ones.

“Over the seven years I have been here, I have noticed the decline and the effects of the disease in many of the residents I moved in with,” Donner shared.

She went on to say there are new developments at the University at Buffalo, where a new drug has been created in the fight against Alzheimer’s.

Donner was referring to recent reports of the drug, called BPN14770, discovered through a research collaboration between the university and Tetra Therapeutics. It is believed the drug may protect against memory loss, nerve damage and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

During her address, Donner also advised the group of 75 residents, staff and visitors to notice three small trees during their walk. The trees had been gifted and planted at Eden Heights in honor of resident Gloria Lundberg’s late husband, Ron, who had lived at the facility before dying from Alzheimer’s disease.

Donner also noted funds raised for a basket raffle, donated by Sherry Torge, amounted to $850. In addition, the Eden Heights walk, as well as funds raised for the cause by Donner’s “Dance for Memories” team, whom she instructs, has amounted to over $45,000 over the years to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association.

During the event, resident Gail Rogers not only cut the purple ribbon to begin the start of the walk, but also led the group with Donner and Lundberg.

“I have a family member that has Alzheimer’s and (the event is inspiring) for the medical end of it,” Rogers said in explaining her enthusiasm for the cause.

Eden Heights executive director Kelly Wilkins said she plans to host the event every year as it means so much to the residents and their families. She also appreciates Donner’s efforts.

“She is the director of fun,” Wilkins said of Donner. “Her compassion and dedication is unbelievable.”

Eden Heights activity director April Kilbourn provided similar comments, and added her appreciation of Donner’s organization of the yearly event.

“She’s such a wonderful lady, I like to call her our Purple Angel,” Kilbourn added. “Laurie has such a big heart, and she gives back so much.”

A community Walk to End Alzheimer’s will also be held today beginning at 10 a.m. in Fireman’s Park in Allegany. All are welcome to attend.

(Contact reporter Kate Day Sager at kates_th@yahoo.com. Follow her on Twitter, @OTHKate)

(Contact reporter Kate Day Sager at kates_th@yahoo.com. Follow her on Twitter, @OTHKate)