The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

September 8, 2013

Women work to combat Alzheimer’s

Persons of the Week

JOHNSTOWN — The end of Alzheimer’s disease starts with an event Saturday at Windber Recreation Park, say the event organizers.

The annual Cambria-Somerset Walk to End Alzheimer’s is scheduled for 9 a.m. that day. Registration will begin at 8 a.m.

The event has been held in the Johns­town region since 2007 and raises funds for the Greater Pennsylvania Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.

Last year, the Cambria-Somerset effort raised $31,945.

This year’s goal is $43,000, said Ruth Ferchalk, one of the organizers.

“We’re conducting the event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research (to find a cure),” Ferchalk said.

“Alzheimer’s is the most cruel and devastating disease there is. There are no survivors from Alzheimer’s.”

Other diseases such as cancer have survivors.

“Those survivors can tell their stories about how they were helped,” Ferchalk said. “But the only people who can speak for Alzheimer’s victims are us – the families and friends.”

The victims do not realize that they have the disease, she said.

“That’s why it is devastating. It takes your loved ones away. They are no longer that person,” Ferchalk said.

Ferchalk, administrative assistant in the commercial lending department of First National Bank, said she became involved in the event to memorialize her father, Aldo Cangioli, who died in 2006 after a long battle with Alz­heimer’s.

She is the captain of a team comprised of FNB staffers from the Johns­town area. Ferchalk said the organizers are thankful for the walkers, sponsors and other supporters.

“Without all of these folks, our efforts wouldn’t mean anything,” said Ferchalk, an active member of St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church in Summerhill.

Lori Lechak, another organizer, likewise believes it is important to battle Alzheimer’s disease.

Lechak, an activities coordinator at Arbutus Park Retirement Community in Richland Township, is well aware of how the disease affects people because she works periodically with patients in Crossroads, the Alzheimer’s unit at the facility.

“I know how devastating Alzheimer’s is,” said Lechak, an active member of Bethany United Methodist Church in Richland Township. “It affects the families more than the patients.

“The outlook for the future, unless a cause and a cure are found, is that the number of Alzheimer’s patients will significally increase,” she said. “The health care agencies, social service agencies and governments worldwide will not be able to handle the financial burden and meet the needs of those affected by Alzheimer’s.”

Lechak also is a captain of a team from Arbutus Park.

For their efforts, Ferchalk, a Summerhill resident, and Lechak, a Browns­town resident, are the Persons of the Week.

Jennifer Smindak, chairwoman of the event, said Ferchalk and Lechak have been working hard on the walk.

“Both of them have poured their hearts and souls into this event,” Smindak said. “They’re just so wonderful with whom to work because they care so much.”

Smindak said the sponsors for the event are FNB, Conemaugh Health System, Puchko Financial Associates and the MetLife Foundation.

More than 120 walkers have signed up thus far, she said.

Individuals and teams have until registration time Saturday to enter the event. There is no minimum amount that a team or individual must raise.

For more information about the walk, call Ferchalk at 244-5594.

Tribune-Democrat editors select a Person of the Week from nominations made by readers. To nominate someone, call 532-5058, 24 hours a day.


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