More than 1,200 participants braved the wet London weather on Saturday morning to raise funds for the Alzheimer’s Society.
Founded in 1979, Alzheimer’s Society is the only UK charity which funds research to find a cure for dementia, and supports people living with the condition.
Starting in Southwark Park, the London Memory Walk provided a choice of marathon or half marathon for the first time, taking in sights of the capital along the Thames.
Claire Haines, senior event officer for Alzheimer’s Society, outlined the success of the walk.
“We raised £250,000 before the walk began,” said Claire.
“We’ve already hit our target which is amazing. People have really got behind it and supported us. We’re so pleased people have come together to unite against dementia.”
She added: “I’ve been lucky enough to see thousands of people cross the finishing line which has been brilliant.”
Jane Cotton has worked for Alzheimer’s Society since 2010 in the celebrity liaison team.
She revealed how she swapped her role in television for one supporting Alzheimer’s Society. She said: “Because of the contacts I made in my TV career, I’m able to attract people to raise awareness.
“In return they are very warm and open in helping raise awareness of dementia.”
A former stage manager, Jane explained why she left in 2008.
She said: “I wanted to use my skills to support causes. The last thing I stage managed was dinnerladies with Victoria Wood.
“Victoria supported Alzheimer’s Society. Before she died, she helped launch one of the Memory Walks for us.
“We’ve got lots of wonderful supporters, the likes of Ruth Langsford, Fiona Phillips and David Baddiel.
“We’ve been very lucky recently that we’ve been on lots of different TV programmes like the One Show and Loose Women.
“More and more it’s coming out of the shadows.
“This is why people with higher profiles are helping us so much.”
One of the highest profile people living with the condition is Barbara Windsor, whose husband Scott Mitchell confirmed she had been living with Alzheimer’s since 2014.
The iconic actress became an ambassador for Alzheimer’s Society two months ago, and mentored Kellie Shirley during her two years on EastEnders between 2006 and 2008.
“I last saw Barbara when we delivered a letter to Downing Street in August,” said Jane, about a petition which contained more than 100,000 signatures to Boris Johnson, urging for more social care funding.
“Scott has said her memory is failing but she’s still aware of what’s going on.
“She’s very supportive and is fighting the cause to have justice with the social care system that’s going on.
“I am very honoured and privileged to support Scott Mitchell and Barbara.
“Kellie is an absolute dream. She’s the loveliest person in the world.
“She was very supportive having run the London Marathon with one of the members of Barbara’s Revolutionaries, which was the team we had for Dementia Revolution.”
Jane talked about changing perceptions of Alzheimer’s. She said: “Before, when it was just misunderstood, people assumed they’d lost everything.
“That’s not true.
“People can live well with dementia if they’re given the right help and support. People aren’t ashamed of it anymore – the stigma of dementia has gone.
“People are understanding that it’s a disease of the brain.
“This is why Memory Walk is so amazing – it brings together all these people who can share their stories and not be embarrassed.
“That’s why I’m so proud to be part of Alzheimer’s Society.”
Former EastEnders star Kellie Shirley joined more than 1,000 others with Saturday’s London Memory Walk.
She raised £185,000 for Barbara’s Revolutionaries running the 2019 London Marathon, and this time the Croydon-born actress walked half that distance in just over three hours alongside close friends Hiten Vora and Ryan Early.
Despite the torrential rain, a large crowd arrived in the early hours at Southwark Park to support the fundraiser.
“I was so impressed at how many people were here at 7.30 on a Saturday morning,” said Kellie.
“That shows the importance of it.
“People are all doing this because of their experience with a loved one living with dementia.
“Out of everything that’s really terrible, something good happens.
“It’s been a really nice thing to do for such an amazing charity.
“I love this charity so much.
“We might be six years away from a cure, which is really exciting.”
Kellie finished in plenty of time to attend Saturday’s edition of Strictly Come Dancing, where her former EastEnders colleague Emma Barton is taking part.
She expected to meet up with Scott Mitchell, husband of Barbara Windsor.
“I’ll find out how the Dame is doing,” Kellie confirmed.
“I see her as much as I can.
“She’s a busy lady but I love hanging out with her.
“She’s got the most amazing stories.”
This was Kellie’s first Memory Walk and she confirmed she’s looking forward to taking part in more, preferring the more relaxed atmosphere compared to a marathon.
“It’s been a very friendly event. I definitely want to do the Glow that’s coming up in March,” she said.
“Hopefully my mum will as well.”
She added: “It’s not a race, it’s about everyone getting together to raise money in a really lovely way.
“There’s no pressure. That’s what’s brilliant about the Glow and Memory Walks.
“I’ve learnt lots doing these events and I’ve made some mates.
“People will hopefully learn more about this event and get involved in future ones.”
To find out more about future Memory Walks, or how you can donate, visit memorywalk.org.uk.
Registration has opened for Glow London, which takes place on 13 March 2020, beginning at Battersea Park.