UW-Stevens Point hockey team makes an impact
By Melanie Rossi
STEVENS POINT – The Alzheimer’s Association works throughout the world to support people with Alzheimer’s and dementia, leading the charge in global research and care; yet with their presence at last year’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s, the UW-Stevens Point women’s hockey team made an impact with the group’s Wisconsin Chapter that seemed to resonate just as far.
The team stepped up in a major way at the event, lending their support — and their voices — to help the event run smoothly.
The Walk to End Alzheimer’s, held annually by the Alzheimer’s Association in more than 600 different communities, is the world’s largest fundraiser to raise awareness for the disease.
The Wisconsin Chapter held their walk in Stevens Point on Sept. 17 of last year.
Olivia Schultz, captain of the UW-Stevens Point hockey team, explained that Lisa Berry, manager of the Wisconsin Chapter’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s, had specifically reached out to the team through their coach with the intention of finding people to help set up and take down pieces for the event.
The players arrived early on the day of the walk to set up by preparing flags and flyers, but they also spent the day cheering on and supporting the participants.
“We were cheering them on,” Schultz said. “They had residents from a few different facilities around the area that came, so it was really cool to see them and that they were able to participate.”
Lauren Wincentsen, another member of the team, added, “We had flowers that you could put on the side of the road — to dedicate your walk to somebody or just to hold them as you walked by.”
The flowers present at the walk each year are more than just the physical ones passed out by the volunteers; according to the Alzheimer’s Association, the flowers also represent the participants walking, “because like flowers, [the Alzheimer’s Association’s] participants don’t stop when something’s in their way. They keep raising funds and awareness for a breakthrough in the fight against Alzheimer’s and all other dementia.”
Schultz explained that all the flowers had different meanings. “If you knew someone or were affected by Alzheimer’s, there were five different colors that you could choose from.”
For example, a purple flower meant that you had lost someone to Alzheimer’s, while a blue flower was given to those living with the disease.
In addition to giving out flowers, the team had other important roles throughout the day.
Wincentsen said, “There were several different booths that we worked at; there was a flower booth, a donation booth, coffee and bagels that they had. We spread out — our whole team was there, all 23 of us — so we divided and conquered the event that day.”
As part of this wide-ranging support, one of the members of the team, Grace Torma, sang the national anthem at the event.
“She’s a freshman this year,” Schultz said. “She’s a part of the choir at UW-Stevens Point. She stepped up as a freshman and did it, which is a big courageous thing to do in front of all those people.”
While the team had never worked at the event before, Schultz had previously been exposed to the group’s mission and goals.
“My grandma passed away from Alzheimer’s when I was 12 years old, so I was always kind of connected with the group,” she said. “When they reached out — and I know there are other players on the team who have had grandparents affected by it as well — I just felt like it was a great way for us to give back to the community but also dedicate that to people who are close to us and our loved ones, as well.”
Both women felt strongly impacted by their work at the event, both because of their personal relationships with those who have faced the disease as well as because of their time at the walk.
Wincentsen said, “It gives you more of a personal aspect to things when you feel connected to the people and can put smiles on their faces and make a difference.”
Cheering on the participants and handing out flowers made these smiles grow, and Schultz similarly noted the impact that their presence had, especially on those currently living with the disease.
“It was really cool to see everyone; all the residents were so happy to see us and be walking and see us cheering them on. You could tell that it made their whole day, so that was really special,” she said.
The players cheered on the participants with pom-poms and bells not only while walking with them, but also from the roof of their house, which bordered the walk’s route.
And while the team gained so much individually from their participation in the walk, they also grew together as a team throughout the process.
Wincensten explained how the event was a great place to meet the newer members of the team and learn how they interacted with the community.
“We had all just gotten here, and we hadn’t really done a lot as a whole group, so getting to know them on a different level in doing something outside of athletics was really cool,” she said.
“I think it meant a lot to our team as a whole,” Schultz said. “We work together nine months out of the year, but to be able to work together for a different cause and really put everything aside and just have this one morning that we really dedicate to people outside of our direct circle was really cool, to be able to see how big of an impact we can have on other people’s lives that aren’t directly related to us and that had nothing to do with hockey. . . It was really rewarding.”
Schultz said that the team plans on returning to the event in future years, not only because the players are free in their off-season, but also because “it’s a consistent way to give back to the community for years to come.”
The 2023 Walk to End Alzheimer’s will be held Sept. 16 in Stevens Point.
To learn more about the Alzheimer’s Association and 2023’s Stevens Point Walk to End Alzheimer’s, visit https://act.alz.org/site/SPageServer/?pagename=walk_homepage.