Looking at Bill Glass, knowing his story, you might expect he’s a member of the über-fit elite in modern American society, the type of person who might fit in a couple of half-marathons a week just for fun.
You’d be wrong.
“Not really,” said Glass when asked if he’s the type of fitness-centered person one might expect to undertake a 750-mile journey on foot from Chicago, Ill., to Atlanta, Ga.
“I started with about four months of planning, which included a lot of training, as well as walking as much as I could with a big heavy backpack on,” said Glass, 37. “I’m losing weight, I guess.”
A noble cause, but it isn’t the reason for Glass’ trek. Glass is raising awareness for the effects of Alzheimer’s Disease in today’s America, as an effort called “Flowers for Mom: Chicago to Atlanta Walk to End Alzheimer’s.”
Glass arrived in Somerset Tuesday, and stayed the night at the home of Adam and Tiffany Bourne, a local attorney and the Pulaski County Community Development Director, respectively. Glass was making his way through downtown when he passed by Commercial Printing downtown and decided he could stand to have a few additional cards printed bearing the website for his mission (act.alz.org/goto/flowersformom).
There, Glass met graphic designer Daniel Stroud, and asked where he could find a nearby spot to camp out for the evening. Stroud did Glass one better — he introduced Glass to the Bournes. It was only the second time on his entire trip that Glass has stayed at someone’s home rather than a campsite or commercial lodging.
“For them to open up their home to a complete and utter stranger ... they’re just a beautiful family,” said Glass, who added that he greatly enjoyed the conversations he had with Adam Bourne, himself an avid runner.
Glass’ efforts have garnered media attention in many of the communities he’s stopped in along the way. To him, it’s not what he’s doing that’s important so much as the message about Alzheimer’s Disease. Glass’ walk is meant to push for Alzheimer’s research funding and to raise find for the national Alzheimer’s Association, which helps provide valuable information and advocacy about the disease.
Glass said that he was “in denial” for a long time about his mother’s own condition, and that he’s found many others he’s encountered along the way have a hard time admitting that their loved ones may be in some stage of Alzheimer’s Disease.
“Alzheimer’s, unfortunately, is a subject that’s not talked about a lot, I’m finding out in these small communities,” he said. “A lot of families keep this under wraps. The more prevalent this disease is becoming, the more it needs to be addressed.
“Every community has stories, everyone I’ve talked to,” he added. “Everyone’s been affected by it in some way or another, and it’s rare I talk to someone who hasn’t been directly affected by it.”
If not directly, he noted, than everybody indirectly pays the cost, as Alzheimer’s has become one of the country’s most costly diseases, with statistics showing that $200 billion is spent annually on Medicare and Medicaid expenses related to Alzheimer’s.
“It’s the most expensive disease out there right now,” said Glass.
That’s why he stopped by the office of Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers before leaving town Wednesday, to provide information for the Fifth District Representative’s staffers about the importance of Alzheimer’s funding for research and treatment.
Glass also visited the local Alzheimer’s Respite Center on South Maple Street and spoke to director Kathy Balltrip.
“They do great, great care there,” he said of the center. “I spent about an hour talking to Kathy and (saw) they do an amazing job. They need to be publicized more. They’re a great non-profit organization that helps Alzheimer’s patients.”
Balltrip said the meeting went well and that Glass has had an “excellent idea” to help raise Alzheimer’s money and awareness.
“By 2025, the incidents of Alzheimer’s in (Kentucky) will triple,” she said, “so we do need to have a broader conversation about the impact of Alzheimer’s in our community.”
Glass also said that Alzheimer’s is no. 6 on the list of the top 10 causes of death in America today, but all the other have gone down in death rates over the last decade — except Alzheimer’s, which has gone up.
“We don’t have a cure yet,” he said, “... but if we can get an initial diagnosis and get patients to where they’re medicated, it won’t cost the country as much.”
When Glass gets to Atlanta, he’ll be there to stay — he’s actually moving there to help take care of his mother, with his possessions already there in storage. He’s 37 days into his trip, and while his plans to make it to Georgia in 50 days may not be realized, it’s worth the delay.
“I’m stopping to let people tell me their stories, that may make (the trip) take longer,” he said. “I may talk to someone for about two or three hours about the turmoil they went through with this disease. ... I’m doing this for you. I’m doing this so you don’t have to go through the anguish that our family has gone through with this disease.”