DOWNTOWN (KPLR) - Saturday, about a thousand runners and walkers packed the streets around Busch Stadium for the 22nd Annual Walk to End Alzheimer`s.
Denial kept Sharon Jones away from the Walk, despite caring for her father, Willie Jones, during his 5-year battle with the degenerative brain disease.
"I think not really being honest with myself about my father is going to expire from this -- not just wanting to be "up in my face" with it," she admitted.
Alzheimer`s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. As soon as Jones heard her dad's diagnosis, she knew his prognosis.
"Of the top 10 causes of death, it is the only one with no prevention, treatment or cure," explained St. Louis Alzheimer`s Association president Stacy Tew-Lovasz. "So, it leaves no survivors."
Protein deposits called plaques were taking over Willie`s brain. But, the association invited anyone fighting the disease to find empowerment at Busch. Our own John Pertzborn was this year`s emcee. He had a report of hope raised, along with money, from last year`s walk.
"We couldn't even realize what was to happen with more of the meds that have come out that basically halt the plaque from spreading which causes Alzheimer's," he explained.
Sharon faced her father's death, but with a lot of help. Before the walk, was a 5K run. Jim Kovacs was the first to cross the finish line. He ran for his girlfriend`s grandmother. She died just three weeks before.
"We`re just celebrating her life," he said. "We mourned her passing, but we saw the great impact she had on everyone`s lives."
"And so I just made it my business. I will be out here today. No matter what, I will be out here today," Jones looked around in amazement, and laughed out loud. "And, here I be!"
"Please raise your flowers," Pertzborn urged everyone in the stadium. They held blue, purple, yellow and orange flowers that twirled in the breeze. "Everyone hold those flowers high."
The flowers bore the names of those fighting the disease, and those who lost their battles. Jones just wished she could have convinced her wheelchair-bound mother to brave the chilly, breezy morning and come.
"She could have seen all this herself. That we weren't by ourselves," Jones vowed she would bring her mother to the walk in 2013 - no matter what.
"I sure am," she laughed, wiping away tears. "I will tell her, "Put a coat on and some gloves."
Jones wiped and laughed some more.
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