Power Behind the Flower

“It all actually kind of came together,” begins Ashley Ferguson of Jacksonville, North Carolina. “My family has a weekly tradition of going to the farmer’s market and the local Walk to End Alzheimer’s happened to have a booth promoting the 2021 Walk.” Ashley made a donation and in return received an Walk t-shirt as well as some information about the event. “I have a lot of people in my life who have and/or passed away from Alzheimer’s disease, and I decided that I’m going to do this [participate in this Walk].” Less than a month later, Ashley not only walked solo in the 2021 Walk to End Alzheimer’s – Jacksonville – in memory/honor of not one, but three important people in her life.

Her first inspiration for walking was her own grandmother. Ashley remembers she had gone out of town to visit another family member when her grandmother experienced a terrible fall. She had to spend some time in the hospital for the recovery process which unveiled some atypical signs of aging. Her behavior warranted some additional tests that confirmed her Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Ashley shares that neither she nor her family was aware that her grandmother was experiencing any ‘off’ behavior and were surprised by the diagnosis. Her grandmother’s youngest son (Ashely’s uncle) and his family moved closer to help care for her until her progress became such that she needed to move to a memory care community. “One of my favorite memories of my grandmother is actually the last time I saw her,” offers Ashley. “We had gone to Florida and made the tour of visiting.” Her family brought a small piece of cake to share with her grandmother. By now her grandmother had forgotten most of who her family members were. “When we walked in her room, she started to remember who we were, and my son sat on the bed with her to enjoy that little piece of cake together.” Ashley’s grandmother passed away from Alzheimer’s around 2013.  

Only fitting that Ashley’s second inspiration for joining the movement to end Alzheimer’s was because of her ‘second mama’ also known as ‘Mrs. Ann’ — her mother’s best friend who Ashley has known since she was in the second grade.  “Whether it was a heartbreak, or someone trying to break into the house, this lady was always right there for me,” says Ashley. “She was the typical feisty Irish redhead.” Ashley has so many fond memories of her second mother, but one of the most memorable was the time when she was pregnant with her son. “I had this huge craving for the chocolate cake that she would make,” Ashley recalls. “No one else could make it like she could.”  Ashley’s mother must have said something, because soon thereafter Ashley had a huge chocolate cake waiting for her. Mrs. Ann and Ashley’s mother taught after school together in the same room every year – thousands of times they went to the same room over the years. One day Mrs. Ann showed up at Ashley’s house. Not only had she forgotten how to get to the school, she forgot that she was supposed to go. Mrs. Ann’s husband was her primary caregiver at home until the end of her life, but Ashley remarks, “The weird part is that Mrs. Ann could not remember her husband but always knew who mom was. He would call the house and ask my mom to speak to her when she was having an ‘episode.’  Hearing the sound of my mom’s voice always seemed to calm her down.”  

And the third reason that Ashley participates in Walk to End Alzheimer’s is Grand mommy,  the great-grandmother of Ashley’s son, who is 98 years old and lives with dementia in assisted living . “She’s an amazing woman and has lived through some tough stuff,” adds Ashley. According to Ashley, Grand Mommy’s first husband was a war veteran who returned with post traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD). Back then, most people did not realize there was a condition known as PTSD. Soon after returning, he committed suicide and left Grand Mommy alone to raise a handful of children by herself. In addition to raising her own children, she also worked with children in the special education department within the school district. 

Inspiration into Action

Camaraderie and the Promise Garden (where Walkers carry the colored flower that matches their connection to the cause) are Ashley’s two favorite parts of Walk day.  “Last year the music was playing between registration and the opening ceremonies,” says Ashley. “Me and one of these other ladies I happen to know just started dancing to it and had ourselves a little bit of giggle.”  She also recalls a gentleman who happened to be walking (exercising) in the area.  He left but soon returns to the registration table with a pallet of water for the Walk.  The man was touched by the group of people participating in the effort and wanted to do something to help.  

Ashley and her friends/family team Flower Power is super excited for this year’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s – Jacksonville on October 15 at Hines Farm Park. The team’s inspiration is the Promise Garden flowers and the goal of achieving the currently elusive white flower — symbolizing the pursuit of the first survivor of Alzheimer’s. Even though Ashley’s mom relies on a wheelchair for most of her mobility, she helps with making phone calls and making sure the other team members have plenty of water to drink on Walk day. Ashley’s son is also planning to walk alongside his mom. In addition to leveraging social media fundraising platforms, Ashley serves on the Walk Planning Committee and is actively out in the community promoting the Jacksonville Walk.  She plans to talk to Coastal Carolina, as well as the Community’s Art and Craft Guild, with information and a donation bucket in hand.

Ashley’s personal initiative is to add names to the flower she carries. She knows she’ll have more names on it, because every time she talks to somebody else, she finds out that they have a brother or a wife or someone else living with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. She believes everyone needs to be represented. “Everyone knows somebody who’s been affected by Alzheimer’s,” asserts Ashley.  “It may be direct or indirect, but it’s a life-altering experience that nobody deserves to go through.”  What the world does deserve is to hold that white flower.

LIKE ASHLEY, WE ALL HAVE A REASON TO FIGHT FOR A WORLD WITHOUT ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE. Join your local Walk to End Alzheimer’s today as an individual, team, or sponsor.

The Alzheimer’s Association hosts 17 walks across North Carolina. The Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s is the world’s largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Since 1989, the Alzheimer’s Association® mobilized millions of Americans in the Alzheimer’s Association Memory Walk®; now the Alzheimer’s Association is continuing to lead the way with Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Together, we can end Alzheimer’s. Your health and safety are our top priorities. We will continue to closely monitor CDC, state and local guidelines to ensure Walk events adhere to the latest recommendations.

Alamance County9/24/2022
Guilford County10/15/2022
Henderson County9/24/2022
Iredell County9/24/22
Moore County10/1/2022
Mount Airy09/10/2022
New Bern10/22/2022
Unifour (formerly Hickory)10/29/2022
Triangle (Raleigh-Durham)10/15/22

Alzheimer’s isn’t stopping and neither are we.

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