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The starting line for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s at Kit Carson Park in Escondido on Sept. 28. Photo courtesy Alzheimer’s Association
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Sports Talk: Walking to fight Alzheimer’s at Kit Carson

In every walk of life, a little moisture must fall. But it didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of those making the trek to raise funds to fight Alzheimer’s.

“Everyone laughed off the rain and had fun,”’ Brett Frankenberg said. “There were a lot of two-legged and four-legged walkers.”

Thousands of folks hit the surface in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s at Escondido’s Kit Carson Park on Sept. 28. Men, women, kids and dogs took to the trails, clearing the path for others to find a cure for this insidious disease.

Frankenberg was among those going left, right, left, right as he pushes on for a better tomorrow for those afflicted with Alzheimer’s. He led a team of a dozen colleagues from the Encinitas-based San Diego Home Health, a handful of family members and even some buddies he plays softball with on Sundays.

It was a collection of so many people from so many walks of life that the turnout couldn’t be ignored. The same goes for their passion to aid those battling Alzheimer’s and those that will succumb to it.

“I think pretty much everyone knows somebody, whether it is a family member or a friend or a co-worker, that has had the disease,” said Frankenberg, a Carlsbad resident. “It’s a disease that knows no race, or social-economical or gender border. It affects everybody.’”

Frankenberg knows it took aim at his family. His grandmother, Ann Brown, died from the complications of Alzheimer’s eight years ago.

While Brown was felled by Alzheimer’s her tale isn’t as heartbreaking as others, according to Frankenberg. She was 92 years old and had lived a good life.

But that’s not the case for so many other people, many of which Frankenberg comes in contact with on a daily basis. As the executive director of San Diego Home Health, he sees firsthand what Alzheimer’s can do.

“It’s the sixth-leading cause of death and there is no treatment and no cure for it,” Frankenberg said. “It really has an impact in terms of watching someone lose their facilities and the ability to manage their finances and such. We see people that are misdiagnosed and as a result their health is mismanaged. And we see it all the time where a patient doesn’t have the social support or social structure to fight it.”

So, Frankenberg rolls up his sleeves at every chance to fight back as a patient advocate. He volunteers his time to be Congressman Mike Levin’s ambassador and public spokesperson on this front, making trips to Washington, D.C., and Sacramento to advance legislature to stiff-arm Alzheimer’s.

“We’re trying to help the victims and their families by getting more funding for research,” Frankenberg said.

Progress is being made, with a recent bump of $325 million in federal funds to improve the Hope for Alzheimer’s Act. It had been written to help patients over the age of 60, but Frankenberg said many people are being hampered by Alzheimer’s in their early 50s.

What hasn’t happened is the discovery of a cure. And until then, Frankenberg and others will walk, talk and do what they can to get the word out in hopes that it will help others in their community.

“It’s an issue right now that we are trying to advocate in town hall meetings and trying to get politicians of both parties on board and make it a kitchen-table issue,” he said. “People need to understand the impact of not planning for it and not having the right insurance in place.

“If we can get people diagnosed it gives them the best change to preserve the quality of the years they have left. There is nothing we can do to stop the disease, but we can slow its progress.”

Frankenberg and thousands of others took a step or two in making that happen, raising more than $100,000 along the way. No wonder a little rain couldn’t stop their journey.