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'I am still working'

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ON THE TRAIL: Participants in the fifth annual “A Walk on June” pose on June 8.
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BY JARED KEEVER - jkeever@perutribune.com

Barb Townsend has a goal to meet and she says she is going to keep working for it through the end of July.

“I’m just not done,” she said Monday after a weekend of work for a cause close to her.

Saturday was Townsend’s “A Walk in June,” a walk she has organized for five years now to raise awareness and funds for an organization that seeks to fund research and provide care for those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

The walk, which tracked along Canal Street on Saturday morning, is designed to coincide loosely with the Alzheimer’s Association’s national “Longest Day” event.

But Townsend works to cram a lot more into the months surrounding the event, raising money that goes to the Greater Indiana Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.

She started in May with a street-side fundraiser, collecting donations and loose change from motorists at a downtown Peru intersection.

That brought in more than $1,600.

To date this year, she said, she has raised more than $4,000.

That’s not quite halfway to the $9,000 mark that she hit last year, but she still has a barbecue fundraiser, hosted by Hickory Creek nursing home, coming up and proceeds coming in from a gift card sale that she organized with Harvey Hinklemeyers as well as others in the works.

“So I am still working,” she said.

And when she is done, sometime near the end of July, the money she has brought in will add to the more than $28,000 she raised in the previous four years.

While Townsend credits the generosity of her neighbors, the work she puts in likely has a lot to do with her personal connection to the disease.

The Alzheimer’s Association says the Longest Day event – which is officially held on June 21, the summer solstice, or the day with the most sunlight hours of the year – is a time when “participants from across the world come together to fight the darkness of Alzheimer’s through an activity of their choice.”

Townsend adapted that so the June walk also paid homage to her mother, June Hughes, who suffered from the disease.

The Alzheimer’s Association says the disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States and an estimated 5.8 million Americans of all ages are living with Alzheimer’s dementia.

In remarks that she prepared for Saturday and shared with the Tribune, Townsend reflected on the “havoc” the disease causes in the lives of loved ones and suggested that the fight to raise money to help alleviate some of that pain chose her as much as she chose it.

Alzheimer’s disease, after all, is not the only disease that claims lives.

“I think when you walk in a valley with someone you love with a disease, and you know how horrible it is,” she said, “that will be more likely the battle you choose.”