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The Walking Forget-Me-Nots

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Alzheimer 3The Forget-Me-Nots of New London, CT – (from left) Janice & Bob Delpaine, Kim Mattson, Stephanie Bishop, Joyce Overton, Melissa Wainwright and Michael Olack.

One day every year for the past six years and counting, many small, but dedicated groups of folks get together for an event at Ocean Beach Park in New London, Conn. It’s known simply as Walk. For two leisurely paced miles people of all ages, races, and creeds walk together, side by side, some with arms around each other, some holding hands and nearly everyone carrying a long-stemmed, plastic pinwheeled flower of blue, purple, yellow or orange color.

“It’s always better when the sun shines on Walk day,” explains Kim Mattson, a veteran walker and group supporter. “It rallies spirits and helps lighten some very heavy hearts.”

This year, on a particularly beautiful September day, Kim, and a companion group of almost 1,100 walked. They walked, like they walk every year, and like a few hundred thousand others also walk in the U.S.—to raise money to fight the heinous disease of Alzheimer’s. This year, Walk was acutely and sadly poignant for Kim. Alzheimer’s, the disease she walks to eradicate, took the life of her mom in May. It was important for the sun to be shinning.

The Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s®, or simply Walk, is held annually in more than 600 communities nationwide, and is the world’s largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Alzheimer’s is progressive mental deterioration caused by a general degeneration of the brain. It is the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S. and is the only cause of death in the top 10 in the U.S. that cannot be prevented, cured or slowed. More than five million Americans live with the disease and there are more than 15.9 million caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias in the U.S., according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Kim’s team is called The Forget-Me-Nots, and they walk to raise funds in participation with the Eastern Connecticut Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. This year, 88 teams walked in the New London event raising more than $142,000. Kim’s team routinely places among the Top 10 in local fund raising and Kim’s individual effort consistently puts her among the local event’s top fundraisers. Kim is a retired educator of special needs children and the spouse of Allan Mattson, the principal and co-founder (along with Marlon Lucero) of Mozaic Group Partners. For each of the last six years, Mozaic Group Partners has made a charitable contribution to the Walk’s effort with additional individual donations contributed by Allan and Marlon.

Walk does more than raise money to fight Alzheimer’s. It provides a special place for folks impacted by all aspects and effects of the disease to gather and provide support for each other.

“There are tears, for certain,” said Kim. “But Walk lets people know they are not alone and that their struggle is shared and understood by others. Upon learning of my mom’s passing, several people came up and wrapped their arms around me and gave me a big, long hug. The embraces were emotional. They were from the heart. They felt great to receive. In the sunshine, they felt even better.”

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