Baylor organization Music & Memory walks to end Alzheimer’s

Baylor University’s Music and Memory group brought a team of supporters to the End Alzheimer's walk on Saturday morning. The group planted pin-wheel flowers in the park and walked the 2-mile loop to show their support. Liesje Powers | Multimedia Editor

By Maya Butler | Reporter

Hundreds gathered together for the annual “Walk to End Alzheimer’s,” a nationwide awareness and fundraising campaign for Alzheimer’s disease, at 9 a.m. Saturday at Brazos Park East.

Healthcare services such as Comfort Keepers, Visiting Angels, Right at Home, Heartis and more lined the grassy field with booths and provided pamphlets about their services for attendees with an elderly relative in need of care.

Participants at the event carried around “flowers,” with each colored flower signifying a different reason for showing up: Blue represented a person afflicted with Alzheimer’s; yellow showed the person was currently caring for someone with Alzheimer’s; purple symbolized the loss of someone from Alzheimer’s and orange demonstrated that the individual supported the goal of a world free from Alzheimer’s.

People registered for the event in teams and were distinguished by their own personalized T-shirts and names. This year’s walk marked Baylor organization Music & Memory’s first time participating.

Chartered last spring, the seeds of Music & Memory at Baylor began when the mother of Dr. Deborah Williamson, professor of voice and advisor to the organization, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

An estimated 5.7 million Americans of all ages are living with Alzheimer’s dementia in 2018, and every 65 seconds someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s disease, according to the latest annual report by the Alzheimer’s Association.

Williamson happened upon the national organization while researching musical benefits for patients suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia.

The website of Music & Memory says it is “a non-profit organization that brings personalized music into the lives of the elderly.”

The organization accepts any student interested in joining, whether musically inclined or otherwise.

“You don’t have to have a musical background or talent, you just have to have a caring heart,” Spring senior and president Sarah Holevinski said.

Once a month, students help bring music to the elderly residents of Living Springs Village Memory Care in Waco, where Williamson’s mother resides. Each member conducts an interview with a resident and their family member to create a personalized playlist for the resident. Songs range from seasonal tunes to Elvis Presley to classic hymns like “Amazing Grace” and “Be Thou My Vision,” depending on the resident’s background and musical interests.

To prepare for the chapter’s debut in the 2018 Walk to End Alzheimer’s, Holevinski and the rest of the members promoted the event by posting flyers around campus and raising funds through Facebook. Together, Music & Memory managed to raise $3,730 for the walk.

Before the walk, Cypress junior Shannon Skillman, vice president, revealed what she wanted the members of the newly charted organization to take from the nationwide event.

“I would really love for them to just get an idea for the community that there is for Alzheimer’s awareness and fundraising,” Skillman said. “I just want them to see how big this can be, how big we are right now and how far we can go.”

In spite of her mother’s Alzheimer’s, Williamson acknowledged the “series of great blessings” she has received following her mother’s diagnosis that led up to Music & Memory’s participation in the annual walk.

“I would have never, ever, ever gone down this path if it hadn’t been for my mother,” Williamson said. “I think there’s a blessing in everything, you know? If you look, I just believe that there is certainly a higher purpose guiding our lives, and this is an absolute positive that has come out of it.”