Highland Springs Residents Walk to End Alzheimer's

By Susan Ingram
January 2, 2024
Residents of Highland Springs, the Erickson Senior Living-managed community in North Dallas, have participated in various campaigns to support the Alzheimer's Association.

Jim Atkins, who moved to Highland Springs, the Erickson Senior Living community in North Dallas, Tex., in 2013 with his wife Lonna, has long been passionate about Alzheimer's research.

Nine years before moving into their apartment home at Highland Springs, Lonna was diagnosed with Alzheimer's.

"Lonna and I met in high school, and we'd been married for 57 years when she passed in 2017. I was her caregiver for 14 years," Jim says. "Lonna also had eight siblings who had Alzheimer's. She was a caregiver herself before she was diagnosed."

Motivated by his and Lonna's experience with the disease, Jim made it his mission to support the Alzheimer's Association by rallying the community around him for an annual Walk to End Alzheimer's.

"Ending Alzheimer's and helping those afflicted is my purpose for the rest of my life," Jim says. "More than six million Americans are living with Alzheimer's. Nationally, 10% of people over 65 and one-third of people over 85 have Alzheimer's."

With help from Continuing Care Director Heather Ancheta, Jim formed team PURPLE--a group of four residents and four staff, supported by about 25 volunteers--to help Highland Springs host a successful Walk to End Alzheimer's each year.

Where it all began

Ancheta, who joined Highland Springs in 2015 as memory care manager, has been dedicated to the cause for many years, as well. In fact, she initiated the community's partnership with the Alzheimer's Association.

"I've been working in gerontology for 23 years," she says. "I've seen how Alzheimer's affects people. The Alzheimer's Association provides many resources for caregivers and families, in addition to their research to find a cure."

As memory care manager, Ancheta worked with residents in Fountain View, the community's continuing care neighborhood.

"It became important to me to have the residents who lived at Fountain View participate in the walk," she recalls. "So, that was the year we decided to register for the annual Walk to End Alzheimer's at Highland Springs."

Coming together

That year, the community raised about $5,000. In 2022, Highland Springs raised more than $120,000.

The impressive feat garnered Highland Springs the Alzheimer's Association's Top Fundraiser Trophy as No. 1 out of 237 teams in the regional Grandscape Walk and No. 9 nationally out of 61,000 teams.

In nearly ten years, Highland Springs has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Alzheimer's Association.

Following the last few highly successful years, Jim and Ancheta are more motivated than ever before to keep sprits high and fundraising even higher--all in the name of supporting Alzheimer's education, research, caregivers, and a much-needed cure.

The why behind the walk

Stan Dolan has been a passionate Walk to End Alzheimer's participant since he moved to Highland Springs in June 2021 with his wife Sharon.

Sharon, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, moved to Fountain View in 2022. She received compassionate care there until she passed away in August 2023.

"I participate in the walks for a number of reasons," says Stan. "The first reason is to honor those who have passed. My mom and dad both passed from Alzheimer's in their 90s, but Sharon was only 71. Sharon's father passed away at 63 with early onset Alzheimer's. So, the disease has been a big part of our lives for a long, long time."

He continues, "My second reason is to honor those who are suffering, who are fighting the battle. I also do it for my kids and my grandkids, because we have got to find a cure. I don't want my kids and grandkids to go through what I've gone through."

Onward and upward

During the year, fundraising is encouraged through premiums such as custom T-shirts, tumblers, and Alzheimer's lapel pins. Higher-level donors receive inscribed bricks in memory of a loved one for the Ring of Champions Tribute Walkway. Other events include golf putting contests, bingo, a bake sale, and a silent auction.  

"The Ring of Champions was constructed in 2022 next to Bluebonnet Lake, which is adjacent to Fountain View," Jim explains. "Each brick recognizes someone who donated $1,000, or more. Dozens have donated so far. We take donations year-round, which means that the ring is ever-growing."

Despite the emotional weight of the cause, Jim and Ancheta try their hardest to make the events, fundraisers, and walks fun, symbolizing the hope of the future.

This past October, more than 200 residents, staff, family, and friends participated in the community's Walk to End Alzheimer's.

"The walk was like a big party with a DJ, dancing, and food vendors. We had a presentation of a large check to a representative of the Alzheimer's Association," says Jim. "It was lots of fun!"

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