Close to 800 people will take to the streets between Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach on Sept. 29 for the second annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s in the South Bay.
What began as the Memory Walk by nine Alzheimer’s Association chapters in 1989 has grown into a fundraising event among 600 communities that's generated more than $75 million toward Alzheimer’s research.
Ken Weiner, who lost two sisters to early onset Alzheimer’s in their 50s, said the walk is a positive way to make a difference fighting a disease that has been so devastating.
“It can hit you at any time,” Weiner said. “I'm living proof.”
Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in America and the only disease in the top 10 killers that cannot be prevented. Researchers still do not know for certain the cause of Alzheimer’s, though breakthroughs to slow the disease have been promising in recent years.
“They don't know exactly the cause, but that's what this research is making strides to do,” Weiner said. “What are the DNA and lifestyle traits that contribute to the disease? They haven't figured that out yet.”
An estimated 5 million Americans are currently living with the disease and almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women.
One of those women with advanced Alzheimer’s is Manhattan Beach resident Nancy Paulikas who went missing two years ago at the age of 55. Her husband Kirk Moody, who will be participating in the walk again this year with a group of friends, said he is still looking for his dear wife.
Paulikas became lost when the couple was visiting the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in mid-city L.A. in October 2016 and Moody never saw her again.
Earlier this year, the Manhattan Beach Police Department was successful in obtaining a list of MediCal recipient providers that took in patients that matched a similar age and demographic to Paulikas near the time she went missing.
Det. Michael Rosenberger has gone through almost all of the list of 75 caregivers but so far has come up empty. Moody said he has about 10 more places to check.
“That's obviously sort of a disappointment,” Moody said. “I had a lot of confidence that would actually come through for us because it seemed highly likely that someone is getting paid for caring of Nancy. And that list would have had that group on there.”
Moody’s work searching for his wife and raising awareness about Alzheimer’s has not gone in vain. When County Supervisor Janice Hahn found out about Paulikas she formed a task force.
Earlier this month, Hahn’s office helped launch a new program called L.A. Found that utilizes tracking bracelets for individuals with Alzheimer’s. In this way, law enforcement can easily find someone that’s lost and confused using Global Positioning System technology.
“She (Hahn) really pushed pretty hard with this getting those bracelets and having the county tracking system,” Moody said. “It's probably going to save quite a few lives actually.”
This year’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s is shooting for a fundraising goal of $175,000. Last year the event raised about $130,000.
To contribute and/or participate in the Sept. 29 walk visit ALZ.org. Registration begins at 9 a.m. at Hermosa Beach Pier Plaza.
Updated: 9/21/18 to correct that Nancy Paulikas went missing from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art not the Museum of Contemporary Art.