Irvine, Calif.- The Alzheimer’s Association of Orange County raised nearly a half a million dollars with their fall 2010 Memory Walks®. The 2nd annual Huntington Beach Memory Walk on November 6 attracted about 2,500 people and the 18th annual Memory Walk at Cal State University Fullerton on October 23 attracted over 3,000 participants, including the Muslim Memory Walkers, who marked their 18th year at the Fullerton walk. Alzheimer’s is a growing epidemic affecting 5.3 million Americans, and the fourth leading cause of death in Orange County.
Muslim Memory Walkers Set Out to Beat Alzheimer’s
Yasmin Kermalli’s Inspiring Story of Being a U.S. Citizen and Giving Back
A few months after 9/11, Yasmin Kermalli and her dedicated team of walkers pondered whether they dare set forth in their customary way for the annual Alzheimer’s Association Orange County Chapter Memory Walk®.
“Should we walk and hold a banner? Should we walk at all?” Yasmin recalls asking herself and her cohorts. A resident of Anaheim since 1985, she and the Muslim Memory Walkers were worried—and with good reason at that time—about supporting a wonderful event that nonetheless might possibly expose them to ridicule or worse.
“Those were certainly trying times,” says Yasmin, “but everyone who walked that day was very kind. They empathized. The American people are something else; with very high tolerance and acceptance levels. They didn’t look at one terrible incident to blame a whole race and community.”
Everyone took a deep breath, and with banner held high, did what came naturally. They put one foot in front of another…and another.
The initially skeptical team soon felt totally comfortable in just a few minutes, unrelentingly committed to the critical goal at hand—or in this case, at foot. The walk is designed to raise awareness and funds to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease. That solidarity, Yasmin remembers, eradicated any preconceived cultural lines as walkers pursued a common goal.
Yasmin’s team returns eagerly this year for the 18th annual Orange County Memory Walk at California State University in Fullerton on Saturday, October 23.
Her daughter Farhanaz, now a successful policy analyst for the U.S. government, initially volunteered for the Memory Walk in high school. Yasmin joined her one year, and soon, it became an annual tradition as friends and relatives joined the team or pledged donations. Yasmin expects approximately 25 team members for this year’s outing.
This year marks the 13th year of participation of the team’s participation in the Memory Walk.
A 24-year employee at a major U.S. bank, Yasmin views her support of the walk as a way to give back to her adopted American homeland; “which has made it possible for us to fulfill our dreams.”
Ironically, Yasmin’s aunt developed symptoms of Alzheimer’s six year’s ago and though she’s not yet 70, she has since lost the abilities to speak or move normally.
Born and raised in Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous part of the United Republic of Tanzania, East Africa, and Yasmin cherishes the community spirit that prevails at her local Islamic mosque. In her homeland, she says, Alzheimer’s is simply not as well known or understood. Here, her aunt’s illness has motivated her to procure matching dollars at work and even hold a pizza sale at Sunday school.
“This is home now,” Yasmin attests proudly. “Our Orange County Alzheimer’s Association chapter has done a superb job of obtaining funding and bringing heightened awareness to Orange County. The event allows us to take a break from being caught up in the details of our own daily lives. It allows us to reflect about those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and how we can help.”
Muslims are currently observing the holiday, Ramadan, annual holy month of fasting from sunrise to sunset. It is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and a time of spiritual purification.
“In fact, a few years ago,” Yasmin says, “Memory Walk occurred during Ramadan, but that did not stop Muslim Memory Walkers from participating.” They may have fasted but were not without energy and pep in their step, confident that they were walking for 5.3 million afflicted with Alzheimer’s.
About the Alzheimer's Association of Orange County:
The Alzheimer's Association is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer care, support, advocacy and research. Our mission is to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health. Our vision is a world without Alzheimer’s. For more information, visit www.alzoc.org or call our 24/7 Helpline at 1-800-272-3900.
Upcoming Memory Walks include Doheny Beach on May 7, 2011 and The District at Tustin on June 17, 2011. For details, call Andrea McDonald at 949.757.3708.