Participating in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s fundraiser is personal for the Galatz family of Hibbing and members of their team, Patsies PT Crazies.
Greg Galatz said five years ago his granddaughter, Serena, suggested they start up the team in honor of Greg’s wife and Serena’s grandma, Patsy Galatz, who at 57, in 2011, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.
As of Monday the team had raised $3,050 for the upcoming walk, set for Sept. 18 at Minnesota Discovery Center in Chisholm, exceeding its original goal of $2,000.
“It’s a testament to good friends and good family and understanding what we’re going through and what other families are going through,” Greg said.
Held annually in more than 600 communities nationwide, the Alzheimer's Association Walk to End Alzheimer's is the world's largest fundraiser for Alzheimer's care, support and research, and calls on participants of all ages and abilities to join in the fight against Alzheimer’s, according to information found on the event’s website.
Registrations are now underway for the Chisholm version.
The event opens at 9 a.m. (for on-site registrations) on Sept. 18 with an opening ceremony at 10 a.m., and the walk to follow, at MDC.
There is also an option to participate from home for those who don’t feel comfortable walking in person.
Dawn Klehr, Director of Communications for the Alzheimer’s Association Minnesota-North Dakota Chapter said in a recent interview that 132 participants and 34 teams had already signed up for the walk in Chisholm.
As of Monday, the local walk raised a little more than $34,000, or 68 percent of its goal.
“We are hoping to raise $50,000,” Klehr said.
This year marks the first time Team Patsies PT Crazies will participate in Chisholm, after walking the previous four years at the walk held in Duluth where Serena studied at UMD.
Greg, a Hibbing native credits the relationship he and his wife have built since their teenage years in helping them through the difficult journey they and their family have experienced the past decade.
“We go back a long way,” Greg said. “I first met and laid eyes on her at a youth center dance on Oct. 31, 1968 — she was 14 and I was 15, and we’ve been dancing ever since.”
He said Patsy was born in Hibbing while her parents were in town visiting relatives. The family relocated often as her father, a pipefitter by trade, went where there was work. They eventually settled in Hibbing, and built a house there.
Patsy, who has a strong family history of Alzheimer’s, was diagnosed with mild cognizant impairment (MCI) in 2008.
“Patsy lost her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother to Alzheimer's, and also lost two uncles, two aunts and a first cousin to the disease,” Greg notes on the online page set up for his team.
After three years of testing to find the source of a drop in memory in cognizant abilities, Patsy was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2011.
Patsy’s desire to help others and to eradicate Alzheimer’s led her to sign up for a clinical trial at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester in 2013.
“Patty really wanted to do what she could to research, and find a cure, so other people and the family wouldn’t have to suffer,” Greg recalled.
The couple made 13 trips to Rochester in one year, staying for three to four days at a time.
Once the clinical trial was over, the couple stayed on as patients in the Alzheimer's Disease Research Department so they could study the effects of the disease on Patsy.
Greg said participating in the trial and research has given them a sense that they are helping, rather than just waiting out the disease.
“With the new technology they can see that they are happening early on in the disease,” Greg said as he described how doctors now have the ability to see amyloid plaques and tau tangles, deformities in the brain commonly found on autopsies of Alzheimer’s patients.
Greg said it’s been very difficult for him and his family to see the impact Alzheimer’s is having on Patsy, their beloved wife, mom, and grandmother.
“It’s a long, long slow process and you see them slip a little bit more all the time,” he said. “And sometimes you don’t see anything for months – it’s a horrible disease.”
They are not alone as more than six million people are living with Alzheimer’s, according to the Alzheimer’s Association website, and between 2000 to 2019 the disease has increased by 145%.
“Talk to anybody, and they have a friend, or a family member impacted by this disease,” Greg said.
The Alzheimer’s Association is a resource for families affected by Alzheimer’s.
Greg said he and his family have worked with the Alzheimer’s Association in various capacities throughout the years, including attending support groups that they sponsor.
He mentioned a series of classes called Powerful Tools for Caregivers aimed at teaching caregivers how to take care of themselves.
Range Respite in Virginia is another resource he mentioned that early on provided media, magazines and books about Alzheimer’s.