By Kim Walter
FRONT ROYAL -- On Saturday, Shenandoah Area Agency of Aging supporters of all ages will gather at Shenandoah Valley Westminster Canterbury in Winchester for the 10th Annual Generations Walkathon.
The event is one of SAAA's major fundraisers of the year. Last year, about 115 participants showed up to raise around $26,000 for the organization. While they were happy with the turnout, the agency's staff is hopeful that this year's event will bring about more support and enthusiasm than ever before.
Throughout the year, SAAA positively impacts the lives of local seniors, primarily low-income, frail and isolated individuals. Services include Meals on Wheels, help with bathing and personal grooming, cleaning the house, changing the bed, doing the laundry and respite care.
Additionally, offerings like door-to-door transportation, Medicare insurance counseling, active living centers and answers to thousands of questions allow seniors to continue living happily in their own homes.
The Generations Walkathon raises funds to meet the significant shortfall between unmet needs and the money to provide the variety of services, according to Roberta Lauder, director of resource development.
She said the first event 10 years ago raised about $6,000, and has grown each year in the number and generosity of participants.
"Our door is open to so many people," she said. "We may have helped a friend, a neighbor, a loved one ... I think over the years people have started to realize what vital services we offer."
So far, participants have raised a bit more than $21,000, but the goal is $50,000. Lauder said meeting the goal would be extremely beneficial to SAAA's fundraising and operational budget.
Various active living centers, local students and families make up some of the teams. However, individuals are welcome.
Cindy Palmer, interim president and CEO, said the event is meant to be uplifting instead of bogged down by recent headlines associated with the agency.
Hardship began two years ago upon the discovery of embezzlement, leading to the firings of several agency executives. With the court proceedings coming to an end, Palmer said she hopes SAAA can start anew.
"I don't want people coming to this wonderful event with the negative things of the past on their minds," she said. "It's time for us to get past all of that. At the end of the day, it's about the seniors ... that's what it's always been about."
The event is scheduled to take place rain or shine. Participants can check in starting at 8:30 a.m. and enjoy a breakfast buffet. There will be a few announcements and door prize drawings, and then folks will have a choice of two walks -- one shorter on paved surfaces, and the other on the wooded paths of Westminster Canterbury's campus.
Funds raised are not dependent on the length of the walk, Lauder said. The agency would prefer that people register by Oct. 3, but will welcome any who wants to come out and help.
"By the time you finish, you'll have had a great meal, some exercise and done a good deed for area seniors," she said.
Palmer said participants are invited to stay and walk as long as they like.
"There's a reason we call this a generational event," she said. "It's a chance for the whole family, the whole community, to give back."
Walkathon registration forms are available at www.shenandoahaaa.com and at all active living centers. For more information call 540-635-7141.
Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or firstname.lastname@example.org