A Short Story about participating and volunteering at the Annual Alzheimer's Walk/Run to Remember, Forming a Work Team for the Walk/Run, Winning in the Age Category, Benefits from Getting Older, Annual Kiwanis Pancake Festival
Last weekend, we had fun at the annual Alzheimer's Walk/Run to Remember. The weather was beautiful and so many people from around the community, from all walks of life, came together for a great cause. I was blessed to be able to organize a team at work, and our motto was: "Catholic Charities Gives Back – Taking Steps to Fight Alzheimer's Disease.”
While I have never had any direct family member that I am aware of who has been touched with that specific disease, my own father was diagnosed with vascular dementia in his latter years after he had some mini-strokes. And we were able to take advantage of the “Respite Program” to help mom and dad before they died in 2006 per the Alzheimer's Services that helped us to manage some of the sitter and other costs that were not covered by insurance.
Earlier in my professional career, when I used to help facilitate Alzheimer's Support Groups, I was able to write a Forward to Ponchatoula native Kim Howes Zabbia's poignant book, Painted Diaries: A Mother and Daughter's Experience Through Alzheimer's Disease: "Who but a caregiver can understand how Alzheimer's is truly a family disease? Who but an artist can plunge into the mysteries of the mind? Who but a journalist can articulate Alzheimer's losses so vividly? Who but a courageous, witty person could take less than a full deck of life's cards and play the game so passionately?"
I've been participating in the annual Memory 5K Run for about 12 years and have been able to volunteer for about 5 years with the 6 AM crew that gets the grounds on LSU campus ready for the 9 AM activities. I can always depend upon Carolyn, one of the Alzheimer's Services Volunteer Coordinators, to make sure my calendar is marked early enough in the year to make it to this great event. It is always great to see the many friends in the aging network whom I know who work at the booths in the “Memory Market” which I help set up with many other volunteers.
It used to happen that the Alzheimer's Memory Walk/Run would fall on the same day as the Downtown Kiwanis Club's Annual Pancake Festival, which benefits many other great social service organizations in town. I used to be a member of that Kiwanis Club and would usually do the Memory Run first and then head to the LSU PMAC where the Pancake Festival is always held. So after jogging off some weight and having a beer with jambalya from the Alzheimer's Run, I would head over to help make Pancakes with my fellow Kiwanians. Nowadays, it seems that the events are on different days, so it is not so hectic when I still go to help at the PMAC. I plan to be there for this year's gathering on Saturday, October 23, 2010!
My goal for a running time in this year's Alzheimer's 5K was 25 minutes. In my 20's and 30's, I used to do these races in about 20 – 21 minutes. In New Orleans, when I first started competition running in the late 1970's, I mostly ran 10Ks. Some of my fondest runs were the Crescent City Classic, as I ran in the first one and did it in around 38 minutes – that was when I was really serious about running. But as I have joined the AARP geezer age group, my running has mainly been for maintenance fitness and not for reducing times. So I approached this Memory Run with realistic ideas of just having fun with my co-workers and seeing other professional contacts and friends.
So after another busy morning of putting up tents, tables, chairs and all kinds of supplies with other volunteers – with a doughnut or two and Community Coffee to boot, I looked forward to meeting with my Catholic Charities co-workers and encouraging one another for either the walk or the run that was to be coming up. And, of course, I had to get in a little bantering and teasing with Brendan and other workers who I would maybe “leave in the dust!”
I started the race towards the front of the group, so as to not get stuck behind some “slow pokes” who can sometimes cause falls as people are trying to weave through others. After we passed the first mile, Matthew caught up with me and eventually passed me up. Brendan got the last laugh as he also flew past me at around the 1 ˝ mile part of the 3.2 mile race. Since I sometimes get stomach cramps from drinking water at the mile points, I just took quick swigs and poured the rest on my head as a great cooling down treat. As I closed in to the end, I thought that I would be close to 25 minutes but was bummed out when I found out that my finished time was 26 minutes even.
So after turning in my race finish tag with my time, I joined Matthew and Brendan in cheering our other team members as they crossed the finish line. It was fun! So we headed over to get some food and drinks and then to the Memory Market booths for goodies. As we were getting close to the Main Stage and the Top 3 Winners were being announced, I told Dana that I may just get in 3rd Place for the 50 – 54 age guys.
As Alecia proceeded to announce the Top 3 Winners from the younger age categories on up, I was hopeful, as I had been able to come in 3rd a few years earlier in the same race. After she announced another person's name for 3rd Place in my age category, I just figured that some of those other gray haired/bearded guys that had passed me up must have done better than me. Next thing you know, as I'm talking with Dana, Alecia announced that “Keith Horcasitas is the 1st Place Winner in the 50 -54 age group!” I high tailed it up to the stage and proudly wore my medal the rest of the day and on Monday when we all returned to work.
It happened that as I had been cheering on our other co-workers at the finish line, I met someone with the Senior Olympics, who was recognizing some members also in the race. While the running activities for the Senior Olympics have already occurred this month, I did get an application for other events to be held this month. Now that I'm 50 +, there are some benefits that seem to accrue with getting older – especially as more folks drop out of competition running and I have more of a chance to win! Watch out Senior Olympics – here I come!
Keith John Paul Horcasitas, LCSW, MHA, 1133 Knollhaven Drive, BRLA 70810, khorcasitas.yahoo.com, October 11, 2010.