ODESSA — In Pasco County, there are yearly fundraiser and awareness walks for a wide variety of worthy causes such as children’s hunger, breast cancer and suicide prevention, just to name a few.

Another cause was recently added to the list with the first Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s being held in Odessa.

On Oct. 20, about 400 people gathered at Starkey Ranch District Park to walk a 5K to raise awareness and money for the Alzheimer’s Association, an organization that supports research and care for the form of dementia.

Every year, around 600 walks are held across the country and eight are put on by the Florida Gulf Coast Chapter in areas including Citrus Country and Fort Meyers. The chapter covers 16 counties in total.

Their goal for the Pasco County walk is just within reach, raising over $52,000 out of the $55,000 they hope to raise by the end of 2018. The money will go towards national research as well as local community programs including caregiver education, the 24-7 helpline, and MedicAlert and Safe Return.

More than 60 teams joined together for the cause, including top fundraisers, at the time of publication, Visiting Angels – Pasco’s Caring Angels, $8,424.50; Walking to Remember, $4,6750; and Beach House Memory Makers, $4,221.23. Top individual participants are Richard Glass, $4,212; Jennifer Graff, $2,455; and Callie Sears, $2,031.23.

Kaylie Male, Alzheimer’s Association development manager, grew up in Pasco County and believes that it was a place where the chapter “really wasn’t able to be fully present” until now.

According to Male, 14,000 people in Pasco County live with Alzheimer’s and is a topic that no one ever really wants to talk about. A large part of the mission for the walk was to help caregivers feel like they were not alone and to showcase programs and services that are available.

“We want them to know that we truly care,” Male said.

U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, and state Rep. Amber Mariano, R-Port Richey, made appearances at the event. It was sponsored by HCA West Florida, BayCare and Edward Jones.

The Florida Gulf Coast Chapter’s 24-7 hotline is 800-272-3900. Other services available are care consultations, support groups and emergency respite care. Visit www.alz.org/flgulfcoast for more information and to donate to the Pasco walk.