Friends, family reunite to ‘walk with swag’ in honor of Carson woman’s Alzheimer’s battle

By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: Oct 7, 2017 | 12:00 p.m. 

CARSON – Saturday afternoon couldn’t have been a more picturesque Fall afternoon in Carson with crystal clear blue skies and comfortable temperatures as friends, family, and members of the community gathered for a special event honoring one of their own and their valiant battle with Alzheimer’s Disease while supporting those still battling the disease and other forms of dementia and their caregivers.

Dozens of people wearing purple in honor of Alzheimer’s awareness filled the small parking lot next to the Harvell/Parham Ball Field just off Old Stage Road in Carson to take part in the first annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s as part of the “Shades of Memories of Dinwiddie, Virginia” team, headed by Mildred Woodhouse, the daughter of the late Nola Harvell, who passed away earlier this year.  

Saturday’s walk had the feel of a family reunion, Woodhouse said as she spent much of the afternoon embracing members of her family that came out to support a cause very close to both her and her daughter Sandy Bennett, who helped take care of Harvell as she suffered from a disease that is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, with more than five million people living with Alzheimer’s or some form of dementia.

Following an opening prayer, song, and moving liturgical dance from Aaron Bazemore of First Baptist Church in Franklin, a powerful symbolic gesture took place on the ball field prior to the walk as 24 people were divided into groups of six, each holding a promise balloon at each of the field’s bases.

The balloons, colored blue, purple, yellow, and orange, each carried a special message, with blue honoring those who have Alzheimer’s, purple representing those who have lost someone to the disease, yellow recognizing those men and women who are supporting or caring for someone with the disease, and orange recognizing those like the dozens gathered at the ball field who are striding and striving for a world without Alzheimer’s. 

Those holding the balloons gathered at the pitcher’s mound before releasing them into the sky, each representing promises to support those with the disease, those caregivers, and efforts to find a cure.

Led by the Dinwiddie Sheriff’s Office, attendees “walked with swag” in honor of Harvell, with some smiling, others walking hand-in-hand with loved ones and those who weren’t able to walk the two-mile route along Shady Lane being transported in golf carts to allow them to take part in the event comfortably.

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As their friends, family, and neighbors made their way onto the roadway near the ball field to begin the walk, Woodhouse admitted she was eagerly anticipating this very moment.

“I really didn’t sleep that well last night because this event was on my mind,” she remarked. “I was just simply excited about today. I was also a little apprehensive about making sure we had our T’s crossed and I’s dotted and, you know, some things didn’t fall in place how we wanted to, but it is all coming together for a good cause.”

Being the first walk for the “Shades of Memories of Dinwiddie, Virginia” team, Woodhouse was pleased with the turnout by her family, friends, and the community, but she was also happy to be able to serve as a catalyst for starting a conversation about Alzheimer’s and dementia here locally.

“There are now people that we are aware of that have Alzheimer’s or dementia that we didn’t know who have started to come out,” she said. “It goes to show that the more that we are vocal about it and talk about this, the less apprehensive people are about telling you that they or a loved one is suffering from the disease.”

Echoing many of her mother’s words, Bennett explained the symbolism that led to the ballpark serving as host for this year’s walk and seeing so many people walk in honor of Harvell as her home stands only a short distance away along Old Stage Road. 

“It was just appropriate to have it here because it’s like my grandmother’s spirit is here,” she shared, at times needing a moment as she spoke fondly of her grandmother. “My grandfather helped build this ballpark about 70 to 80 years ago and just to have it here so close to her home where spent so many years raising her family means a lot.”

“Thank you 1,000 times…for supporting a great cause and walking in memory of an awesome woman and in memory of so many who are now beginning to come out and say they have dementia or Alzheimer’s,” Bennett continued.

As Saturday’s event took place with very few hitches along the way, Woodhouse and Bennett said they and the “Shades of Memories of Dinwiddie, Virginia,” team are already working to plan 2018’s festivities while supporting a larger walk in Richmond planned for November.

“We are already starting to think about next year and things that we can do and, having met officials with the local Alzheimer’s Association, we are also working with the 2017 Richmond walk and all of our proceeds will go to the 2017 walk there, which some of us will be walking in, as well,” Woodhouse said.

She added that Saturday wasn’t just a walk, but a reunion as so many members of her family gathered at the Harvell/Parham Ball Field and that added special meaning to what they were doing in honor of her family’s matriarch.

“It’s so great to see so many people I haven’t seen in awhile, so many cousins and others coming together,” Woodhouse said as her daughter agreed. “A lot of times when we stop doing what we do and come together, it’s for a funeral. I am glad we could come together for a great occasion so we can laugh together, talk together and just reunite together because sometimes at funerals you don’t have time so today is like a reunion.”

As the event wore on with laughs being shared, hugs exchanged, and stories told, Woodhouse knew her mother’s spirit was present for Saturday’s event.

“I know my mom is smiling and she is looking over everything today and I know she still has her swag today,” she said with a smile.

To learn more about joining the “Shades of Memories of Dinwiddie, Virginia” or making a donation, contact Mildred Harvell Woodhouse at 301-661-4605.

Copyright 2017 by Womack Publishing
Photos: Michael Campbell / The Prince George Journal
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