INDIANAPOLIS – Thousands of people gathered in downtown Indianapolis on Saturday for the annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

The Alzheimer’s Association Greater Indiana Chapter aims to raise $1 million this year, which would be a record for Indianapolis. Last year the organization raised more than $800,000 from the Walk, which ranked 14th in the nation.

As of Saturday morning, the organization says it has already raised more than $900,000.

Saturday’s event took place at IUPUI’s Carroll Stadium in downtown Indianapolis. Before the Walk, participants gathered around for a “Promise Garden” ceremony. Participants honor those affected by the disease by displaying various colors of flowers.

According to the organization, a blue flower indicates the participant is currently living with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. Yellow flowers signify Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers. Those carrying purple flowers have lost someone to the disease, organizers said. Orange flowers represent supporters of the Alzheimer Association’s vision of a world without the disease.

The event is personal for many people who attend, especially those who helped organize it.

“In January of 2020, my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s,” ­­­­­­­­­­­said Community Engagement Chair Mark McFatridge. “The interesting thing is we had seen signs coming, but honestly didn’t know what the 10 signs of awareness were to help identify Alzheimer’s. Had we known that, I think we could have done a really much better job of putting her in a position to be successful and maybe even slowing the process of the disease.”

McFatridge, like many others, was motivated to become a part of the organization to help thousands of others. The Walk itself raises money for research, care, and support.

“The fundraising is great, but the awareness is even more important,” he said.

Emily Wilson also lost a loved one to the disease. Wilson’s mother passed away in 2021 after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2017.

“She was diagnosed after masking it for quite a while,” Emily Wilson, who is the Chair of the organization’s Board of Directors. “She tried to hold on as long as she could. When she was diagnosed in 2017, she had already progressed a fair amount. So at that point we were two peas in a pod. I was her only caregiver and we struggled through this disease for four years until she passed away last year.”

Wilson said support is very important, which is exactly why she said the Walk can be very beneficial for those who know someone struggling with the disease.

“It’s really hard to do this alone,” she said. “It’s overwhelming both for those living with the disease and for those who are helping them through that.”

Around 2,300 people registered for the event. Participants helped raise the money, including Brian Eagle whose team raised the most money. Eagle’s team raised $50,000.

“We are on a quest to help the Alzheimer’s Association and Alzheimer’s research raise the white flower, which represents the first survivor of Alzheimer’s,” Eagle said.

Saturday’s event follows another major milestone in dementia research. Just a few days ago, Biogen announced that a treatment in clinical trials slowed cognitive decline by 27%.

Alzheimer’s Association leaders say it is not a cure, “but it could mean more time, and just as importantly, more quality time.” The treatment has not been approved by the FDA yet, but the Alzheimer’s Association is hopeful and said it is a sign of progress.

“That just gives a little bit of extra hope as we gather this morning and continue to raise funds for more research,” said Alzheimer’s Association Greater Indiana Chapter Executive Director Natalie Sutton.

This week, FOX59 also sat down with Indy Eleven owner Ersal Ozdemir about his efforts to raise money for the cause, and why the fight against Alzheimer’s is personal for Ozdemir’s family: