High schooler Lara Shein wants those with Alzheimer’s disease to know they are not walking the journey alone.
A resident of Owings Mills and a member of Beth El Congregation of Baltimore, Shein worked with the Alzheimer’s Association to create The Junior Walk Committee, which works to support the Alzheimer’s Association’s mission, in particular through the organization’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s events.
“Aside from being a real walk, [the Walk to End Alzheimer’s is] a way to spread awareness and raise awareness for Alzheimer’s and engage with your community,” said Shein, a senior at The Bryn Mawr School. “It’s just a great way to gather together for a cause and be able to support your community as well.”
In a given year, the nationwide Walk to End Alzheimer’s includes over 600 separate walks across the U.S. The Greater Baltimore Walk to End Alzheimer’s raised $459,000 in 2019 and has a goal of $455,000 for 2021.
The Walk to End Alzheimer’s “is the world’s largest event to raise funds and awareness for Alzheimer’s care, support and research,” said Melissa Snyder of Middle River, the senior development manager at The Alzheimer’s Association Greater Maryland Chapter, who coordinates the Greater Baltimore walk.
Funds raised typically go to research on Alzheimer’s or care and support to those facing Alzheimer’s, Snyder said. This includes support groups, education programs, online resources and a 24/7 help line.
Commonly, participants in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s will form “walk teams,” said Shein. Donations to those individual walk teams can then be made by the walkers themselves or by others.
Shein was not always so familiar with Alzheimer’s disease or the organizations working on it, she said. However, she felt motivated to learn more after the death of her grandfather, Donald Shein, during her freshman year. After completing a school community service project related to Alzheimer’s, she realized she wanted to begin an initiative that would allow students like her to become more involved in issues related to the disease.
After Shein proposed her idea of a Junior Walk Committee to a number of staff members she’d previously worked with at the Greater Maryland Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, the organization approved it and worked with her to establish the initial group. The committee officially began in the spring of 2020, with Shein herself serving as the committee’s chair.
“The Junior Walk Committee is essentially a group I created that engages students from schools all over Maryland,” Shein said.
The committee currently is made up of around 30 students from schools that include The Park School, Garrison Forest School and Roland Park Country School. The committee encourages members to form clubs in their own schools, establish walk teams and engage in other educational and community service projects throughout the year.
Currently, the Junior Walk Committee is focusing on raising money for the Alzheimer’s Association through their different walking teams, Shein said.
Shein hopes that her Junior Walk Committee could one day serve as a model for similar groups nationwide.
To those interested in taking action to help cure or alleviate a disease, Shein encouraged them to get “involved and really taking advantage of all the opportunities, and if it is Alzheimer’s specifically, I know that there are so many ways that they can get involved.
“Just little things really make a difference, and that’s really important, understanding that doing just a little bit of service can really impact other people,” Shein added.