08/25/12 4:00pm
08/25/2012 4:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO |  More than 200 people descended on Riverhead Saturday for the East End Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

The East End Walk to End Alzheimer’s kicked off Saturday morning in Grangebel Park in downtown Riverhead to raise awareness and funds in the fight against the disease.

There were 228 pre-registered participants on 25 teams who helped raise $28,000 for care and support services to help more than 60,000 residents of Long Island and their families living with Alzheimer’s disease. The event was organized by Alzheimer’s Association of Long Island.

Riverhead Town Councilman John Dunleavy, they keynote speaker, called the cruel disease “the long goodbye where we watch loved ones leave us daily.” The New York City based USO Liberty Bells provided entertainment with renditions of songs by Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald and the Andrew Sisters. The 1931 founded USO has been supporting its troops in the tradition of Bob Hope.

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After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, with a special appearance by “Kevin,” one of the Long Island Aquarium and Exhibit Center’s penguins, the 3 1/2 mile walk then proceeded around the park and along the Peconic Riverfront to the aquarium where symbolic flowers were planted in a “Promise Garden.” The colors of the flowers represented those living with the disease, families and caregivers, supportive individuals and those who have passed.

The aquarium also hosted a clambake, scavenger hunt for the children, and participants were given tote bags and commemorative T-shirts.

Executive director Mary Ann Malack-Ragona said that the recently donated center in Bay Shore will have an Alzheimer’s day care center which should be completed by next January. There is also a satellite office in Southampton.

This was the first time the walk was held in Riverhead. Last year there were two walks in Southampton and Bethpage. There will be two more walks in the fall: Sept. 8 in Southampton and Oct. 20 in Westhampton Beach. They plan on returning to Riverhead for a walk next year. For more information call 631-820-8068 or visit www.alz.org/longisland.

photo@timesreview.com