ST. CLOUD – St. Cloud’s annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s will look a bit different this year.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the yearly fundraising and awareness event will not include a large get-together and group walk. Instead, participants are encouraged to wear their "Walk to End Alzheimer's" t-shirts and walk alone or in small groups on sidewalks, tracks and trails, any time on Saturday.

“We’re encouraging everyone to walk amongst themselves,” says Cristina Rodriguez, founder of Silver Lining Dementia Education and Consulting. “It’s still (the Alzheimer Association’s) biggest fundraiser, so we’re still encouraging everyone to get a team together and go for a walk locally – maybe in your local park or around the block – where it can be done with some social distancing.”

“So, this year, we’re still raising awareness, but we’re making a few changes,” she added.

Participants are encouraged to share their walk photos on Facebook, and will be able to track their steps, manage their fundraisers and share their reasons for walking via an app. The day will still include an opening ceremony, and Alzheimer’s Association staff members will create a “Promise Garden” and signs highlighting symptoms of dementia for drive-by viewing next to the St. Cloud YMCA.

Rodriguez says the event – and raising awareness of Alzheimer’s - is more important than ever.

“We’re going to see the impact of Alzheimer’s and dementia grow as our baby boomers age,” Rodriguez says. “Age is the number one risk factor for developing dementia, and as our population ages, we’re going to continue to see that. So, it’s really important that we still continue to advocate for those living with some form of dementia and raise awareness of it.”

The event is set for Saturday, Sept. 12. To learn more about the walk or to get involved, visit the Walk to End Alzheimer's website.