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posted: 10/7/2013 6:00 AM

Chicago-Atlanta walk is Lombard man's first step toward ending Alzheimer's

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  • William Glass of Lombard did a great deal of research at the Helen Plum Library before embarking on a 750-mile journey to walk, alone, to Atlanta to raise money and awareness for the fight against Alzheimer's disease. His mother was diagnosed with the disease in 2010.

       William Glass of Lombard did a great deal of research at the Helen Plum Library before embarking on a 750-mile journey to walk, alone, to Atlanta to raise money and awareness for the fight against Alzheimer's disease. His mother was diagnosed with the disease in 2010.
    Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

  • William Glass of Lombard walked more than 750 miles to Atlanta to be with his mother, Eileen, who has Alzheimer's.

      William Glass of Lombard walked more than 750 miles to Atlanta to be with his mother, Eileen, who has Alzheimer's.
    Courtesy of William Glass

 
 

William Glass of Lombard recently completed a journey of more than 750 miles, walking the entire distance from Chicago to Atlanta in two months on a mission to get back to his mother, who has Alzheimer's disease.

The trek, which he called Flowers for Mom: Chicago to Atlanta Walk to End Alzheimer's, allowed Glass to educate people about the prevalence and devastation of Alzheimer's and raise money for research.

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He chronicled his walk on social media for longtime friends and new followers alike. This is an edited version of his final entry.

On the afternoon of Oct. 1, I came upon a busy intersection.

I stood on the corner for about 15 minutes. I looked behind me. I watched the lights turn from red to yellow to green. I watched the cars stopping and going. I looked at the people in the cars. I stared at the blue sky, the clouds. I breathed in the air. I listened to the sounds of that intersection, the wind through the trees, the noises of the engines.

But most of all I reflected. Where I had been, the sights I've seen, who I had seen, the stories I've heard.

I thought about when I was dropped off 56 days ago on Aug. 5 in Chicago. I thought about what I had felt that day as I stood at that intersection looking around. I thought about how alone I felt, the world whizzing by, the overwhelming anxiety.

What was ahead of me, what was I about to endure? I tried to have confidence in the preparation and the training I had done. Nothing could have prepared me for the weeks ahead.

I thought of all the people all over the country who supported me. The old friends I hadn't spoken to in years from my hometown of Murphysboro, Ill., who circled the wagons and stood behind my cause. I thought about researchers from Arizona who emailed me, telling me how close they are getting to finding treatment for Alzheimer's. I thought about the journalist from New York who interviewed me. I thought of all the congressmen and politicians I had pleaded with.

But most of all I thought of the hundreds of heartbreaking stories I've heard. I thought of all the hugs these arms squeezed, the countless tears my shoulders soaked up, the emotionally charged hands I've shaken. All the thank you's I've received.

I thought about how I now know what the term "blood, sweat and tears" means. I've been asked many times if I was ever scared. Hell, yes, I was every day.

Was today the day I got hit by a car? Will someone rip open my tent tonight? Did I say the right thing to that lady who just lost her mom to Alzheimer's? Did I get my point across to that congressman?

But every story I heard, every message I received, every life I touched, gave me more and more strength to keep going, putting one foot in front of the other.

I thought about all the sweat I shed, all the cuts on my legs, the countless days without showering, the sunburns, the storms and rains I walked through, the pain, blisters and swelling of my feet, the burning of my shoulders from the pack on my back. And the dogs; oh the dogs!

And then I thought abut how these minor inconveniences do not compare to what families and victims of Alzheimer's have to endure on a daily basis.

Then I looked ahead and gazed to where I was going. What was next for me?

The fight is not over. I will keep advocating for Congress to provide more funding for research. I will keep fighting for the family in Kentucky that lost the farm that has been in their family since 1893 to the nursing home. I will keep fighting for caretakers who go unpaid. I will keep fighting for the guy in Ohio who lost his job and benefits because he was fired for going to work "drunk," only later to discover he had Alzheimer's.

I will keep fighting.

I then turned right, walked about a quarter-mile from that intersection and, at 12:20 p.m., walked through the doors of the facility where Mom lives. I gave her a big hug and then we had lunch together.

I apologize for being selfish, but I wanted the completion of our walk to be just for Mom and me.

Be proud of the fact that you supported me, because you were not just supporting me, you were supporting the fight against Alzheimer's. Be proud to know you are a part of a future cure.

I thank you for standing behind me and fighting with me now and in the future. Be proud to know your voice was heard. Thank you to everyone for all your support.

And to the question I get asked the most: Yes, I'm already planning to walk across the country in a few years. For now, though, I just want to spend time with Mom.

I invite you to please donate just a few dollars to the Alzheimer's Association at act.alz.org/goto/flowersformom. Although we did not reach our goal monetarily, I know we made our voices heard.

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