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Volunteer Gemma calls on people to unite for Watford Memory Walk

14th September 2018

Soldier’s daughter Gemma Evans – whose dad was diagnosed with dementia aged just 58 – is urging people to sign up for this year’s Watford Memory Walk.

Walkers and volunteers are needed and the full-time nanny would like as many people as possible to join her by registering to take part.

Anyone can sign up at memorywalk.org.uk with a choice of 3.5km stroll, 9km – or a for the first time ever a 20k stretch, all on Saturday 15 September.

Gemma, (30), of Aston Clinton, has walked in a series of Memory Walks and volunteered as a helper for Watford as well as taking part in London Memory Walk – but she loves doing both.

“It’s really important to me,” she said. “My dad was left unable to write, read, speak, walk or even get dressed without help. He died with dementia four years after being diagnosed.”

The six feet tall former staff sergeant, who served in the Queens Dragoons – including a tour of Northern Ireland – experienced hallucinations as frontotemporal dementia took hold.

“My step-mum Anita came home to find him preparing loads of food, he said ‘don’t be rude, all these people are here to see us. She had to go and say hello to everyone ‘eating and drinking’ in a room dad saw as filled with people – they weren’t there – it was empty,” said Gemma.

“He saw the dog he used to have, Bessie, under the table and thought he had to feed her, but she wasn’t there anymore. At one point he pushed a family member against a wall – that was never my dad, that was dementia. He would have hated himself if he’d known.”

Her dad, Stephan Evans, had always been “gentle and protective of us.” He died aged 62. 

“I remember the day a few years before when he called and said ‘I have to tell you something, I’ve got dementia.’ I couldn’t process it. He was very calm and said ‘I want you to understand, it’s going to be OK.’” said Gemma. “I burst into tears.”

Soraya Bowen, Alzheimer’s Society community fundraiser, said: ““Hundreds of people have signed up for the walks, but more are needed. We rely on the support people taking part and fabulous volunteers like Gemma to make our walks happen. Ways to be involved include anything from setting up to presenting medals, giving out water or cheering on our wonderful walkers. We have something for everyone. 

Volunteers are a vital part of a very special day. Anyone interested in volunteering or walking can find out more and sign up at memorywalk.org.uk

“Memory Walk will help Alzheimer’s Society invest £150 million in research over the next decade and to provide information, care and support. That’s why every step matters,” said Soraya. “Memory Walk has a lovely atmosphere and fabulous community spirit for people taking part at Cassiobury Park as well as everyone who joins us as volunteers.” 

The longer walk starts in the park and takes in the Grand Union Canal path and Rickmansworth Aquadrome. 

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