In honor of my papaw, the late Jerry McKnight, I covered the 11th Turkey Trot for Alzheimer’s Saturday and I thought about him the whole time, and how loved ones and family go through the same thing every day that I went through. 

Over 75,000 people in Kentucky suffer from Alzheimer’s, according to the Alzheimer’s Association of Kentucky. Just as telling, 149,000 family members and loved ones take care of those inflicted. Like all those other caregivers, taking care of papaw was not a burden and I’d do it again, but events like this prove I’m not alone. 

Mary Horsley, one of the organizers, said over 400 people signed up for this year’s race, up from the 70 the first year.

Events like The Turkey Trot mean a lot to people who are caregivers who not only care for, but also lose those family members with fading memories. When they forget who they are and everyone they have ever loved, and then the dreadful day that they actually pass away. 

You watch your loved one die twice when you are taking care of them during this tough time. 

Seeing his name on the slideshow (shown after the race) brought tears to my eyes, because people now know what he suffered from and know he didn’t mean to forget and it wasn’t his fault if he got mad easy. 

And people now understand why I am the way I am. 

I wish more people could understand what it is like watching your persons’ brain denigrate more and more every day, and there is nothing you can do to stop it. There is nothing you can do to stop the pain they are going through and the sleepless nights. It scares me, because I know my mom is going to be the same way. She is already showing the early signs and I don’t know how I will be able to do it again.

Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death and it is one of the hardest to watch, but Saturday’s event helped show me that a lot more people than I thought go through this.

Fortunately, the money raised by Saturday’s event stays local for a special St. Clair’s Alzheimer’s and dementia funds to help caregivers with grants to cover gas, tires and even Christmas gifts.  

And the event highlighted the support we all need.

Haley Wheeler, the 2021 Miss Kentucky, chose Saturday to go the 5K, rather than just give a speech. She made the disease her year of dedication because she lost her grandfather to the disease.

For me, I love to wear purple and tell my story of him and I. Every new person I meet I tell them about him and how he shaped my life. I wouldn’t be where I am today without him and his loving support. 

I dedicate it all to him. My best friend. 

The Turkey Trot 5K has continued to raise awareness for Alzheimers Disease, which has affected over 149,000 family members and 75,000 loved ones who suffer from this disease in Kentucky. This race invited participants and volunteers from across the state and region with over 400 registered members to support the cause.