Hiking events

Hiking challenge in the Adirondacks to raise funds for Alzheimer’s care and research

This month, the Northeastern New York Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association is hosting a hiking challenge to raise funds and awareness, highlighting the more than 6 million Americans living with the disease and their caregivers. Bothn/a The annual Paint the Peaks Purple Challenge takes place around June 21st – the summer solstice. But with the date falling on a Tuesday, the organization encourages those interested in participating to find any day in June that works for them.

WAMC’s Jim Levulis spoke with chapter board member John Marcantonio about the effort.

Marcantonio: Paint the Peaks Purple is sort of an idea of ​​mine. My mother died of Alzheimer’s disease six years ago. And during her journey with the disease, as the primary caregiver, there was a lot of emotion and pain watching my mother go through this. And I became a hiker, I became a very avid hiker, and I became an Adirondack 46er. And, you know, when my mom passed away, in her honor, I started doing the Longest Day fundraiser for the Alzheimer’s Association. And a group of four or five of my friends and I would meet on the longest day, which is the summer solstice. You know, in honor of everyone who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and their primary caregivers, every day is the longest day for these people. So on the longest day, from four years ago I had a group of four my other friends, we prepared to walk from sunrise to sunset and competed several Adirondack High Peaks in a day. And as the momentum built, we did it for three years, last year I said, you know, instead of making this an isolated event for me and my group, why not open it up to everyone and consider more accessible hikes? So there are many interesting lists published by different organizations, be it Lake George 12, Lake Placid 9, Saranac 6, Adirondack 29, Adirondack Mountain Club Firetower Challenge. There are all these great hikes for all levels. And, you know, my thinking was, okay, instead of just, you know, four or five of us go out and conquer a mountain range and raise, you know, $4,000 or $5,000 , let’s open this up to everyone. And let’s give everyone the opportunity to raise awareness, raise funds for caregiver support and research, and have that emotional outlet. You know, I think the more people we interact with, if you ask someone if they have a connection with Alzheimer’s disease, usually everyone has a story, whether it’s the story of the suffering of one’s family, or that of a friend or a loved one’s family, extended family, having someone who has been affected by the disease. So the event kind of turned into, hey, let’s open this up to everyone to give everyone the opportunity to participate. And purple being the color of the Alzheimer’s Association, it was a great opportunity to paint the peaks purple.

Levulis: And what was the experience like last year, when you opened it? How many people participated? Approximately how much money was raised?

Marcantonio: So last year we had a banner in the first year. I’ve been in and around event coordination for a long time in my career, and to get 60 people to attend a freshman event, which is, again, it’s not a structured event, it’s you choose your peak, you choose your partners, and you leave on that designated day. We had 60 people participate. We’ve covered 23 different peaks in the Adirondacks. And we raised $18,000. Huge success.

Levulis: And from there, what are the objectives for this year? What are you expecting for this year?

Marcantonio: So the goals for this year, you know, I’m still a guy who shoots for the stars. So, you know, originally it was to see if we could get 90 to 100 people to participate in this. And we’re still you know, we’re still what, 10 days from the event, 9 days from the event. We have over 60 people registered. The goal, the expectation this year was to reach a benchmark within the National Alzheimer’s Association of $30,000. And, you know, there are certain things, certain benefits that the event gets if we reach that level of fundraising. So that’s sort of where I have my sights set for this year’s event. And we are on the right track. We have already raised approximately $9,000. And, you know, typical of events of this nature that are a bit weather dependent. You know, hikers are a warm bunch, but we all prefer those “sunny, 70’s” days. So, you know, the forecast is looking pretty good, and hopefully we’ll get over 75 hikers and raise that $30,000.

Levulis: And which summit(s) will you climb on June 21?

Marcantonio: So this year I have the honor and privilege of hiking with a new friend of mine. His name is Chris Davies. Chris is my age. He is in his early 50s and has been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. So Chris, his son Aiden, myself and my normal group who have supported me since day one, we are going to climb Mount Colden, which is right in the heart of all the High Peaks. This is a beautiful, beautiful hike. And that’s what we have our sights on.

Levulis: John, you mentioned that you started hiking after your mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. What did you find in the hike that drew you in and drove you to complete the 46 Adirondack High Peaks?

Marcantonio: You know, what I found was two things. Peace in the woods, you know, it’s a place where you can get out and enjoy the beauty around you. And kinda what all those things are that weigh so heavily on your mind when you’re caring for someone with a disease like Alzheimer’s, to let them go and just enjoy the moment and enjoy the woods and peace and quiet and enjoy the physical challenge. You know, the challenge of conquering the 46 High Peaks in the Adirondacks takes a lot of determination, commitment and coordination. I had the pleasure of doing the 46 peaks with one of my best friends. And he was a great sounding board and a great year to listen to me while we were hiking. And, you know, as I try to get all of these things out, it’s been a great experience.

Levulis: And finally, John, if anyone is interested in participating in the Paint the Peaks Purple challenge, how do they go about it?

Marcantonio: So if you go to alz.org and search for “Paint the Peaks Purple” it will take you straight to my page, you can sign up there. And as soon as you sign up, myself or the Association’s event coordinator, Ashley Enekes, will be contacting you, talking to you about what peak you’re planning on going to and who’s going to join you and talk to you a bit about this fundraising effort. Again, this event has two parts: to raise awareness by wearing your purple and to make people recognize that you are fighting to end Alzheimer’s disease, but it is also about raising funds. And we’re raising that money to provide support for local carers and provide funds for research so that one day we can find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Currently, there is no prevention. There is no treatment, and there is no cure. And the money that we raise hopefully in future generations, I have an 11-year-old son, I hope in his generation, because he will become a senior, Alzheimer’s will not exist.