In 2013, William Glass set off on a 750 mile walk from Chicago to Atlanta. His goal was to raise awareness and help find a cure for Alzheimer's disease, the degenerative disorder that impacts more than five million Americans and their families.
He raised $10,000 in two months, but back then, he was just a novice, he said.
"I was ignorant to the disease. I was a dumb guy taking a walk raising awareness for Alzheimer’s to find a cure. There is no way we are going to get there in 2025," said Glass, who currently lives in Atlanta while caring for his mother Eileen,79, an Alzheimer's patient who resides in a local facility.
On Wednesday, Glass, 41, laced up his teal-colored sneakers from Big Peach Running Company, and hit the road again. This time, he is trekking 650 miles from Atlanta to Washington, D.C. in the hopes of connecting with President Trump and handing over a petition to addresses the concerns of the many families effected by the disorder.
"I really feel that with the second walk people are starting to realize 'This guy is serious." They are realizing I am passionate about this not just for my mom but for everybody. That is why I am going straight to the top. I know President Trump can’t do anything about it, but he can lean on people," Glass said.
Since he left Atlanta, he has battled the heat and rain on his 20 mile daily walks. The weather has been tough, but Glass said when he feels like giving up he thinks about the caregivers and Alzheimer's patients who have no choice but to continue when presented with a challenge.
"Caregivers are the unsung heroes of this disease. That is also who I am walking for. They are getting paid just above minimum wage. They are overworked, underpaid and don’t have the most up to date tools to do their jobs correctly," he said.
During his walk, Glass takes the time to make direct contact with caregivers. On Sunday afternoon, he stopped at a facility and introduced himself to the skeleton staff on duty. He told them who he was and what he was doing and thanked them for their work "They looked at each other with dumbfounded looks on their faces and said 'Wow, we haven’t heard a thank you in a long, long time,'" Glass said. "That is wrong."
Glass hopes to bring these issues to light, as well as the concerns of those who have a family member suffering with Alzheimer's. These concerns include everything from stricter regulations, higher standards and more transparency in the hospice industry to the use of antipsychotic/neuroleptic medications to treat the disease and funding to consider drug alternatives. He also hopes to raise awareness of the limits of Medicare and Medicaid coverage when considering care options.
"When I did that walk (in 2013) and was coming down through Kentucky and Tennessee, they had the mindset that (Alzheimer's) is just what happens to mom and dad when they get old. We are starting to realize our country is in dire debt and it is costing our country with Medicare and Medicaid because it is such a long drawn out process," he said.
In addition to raising awareness, Glass is raising money for the Alzheimers Foundation of America (AFA).
“It is truly admirable what Mr. Glass is doing. We need to increase awareness of this debilitating disease, while eliminating the stigma that goes with it,” said Bert E. Brodsky, AFA’s founder and chairman of the board.
Glass, who spoke to the AJC during a break at a Comfort Inn in South Carolina, said he was sunburned and suffering with foot pain, but he remained determined. He had to walk 32 miles that day and the forecast was for 90 degree weather. Though he has a long way before he reaches the White House, Glass said he is prepared for whatever reception he may encounter when he arrives.
"There is a high chance I am not going to meet with (President Trump), but there is someone there who is going to meet with me. I am going to get to talk to somebody. I am going to get to tell my story to someone. If I can affect just one person’s life, I have done my job," he said.
Follow Glass's journey at facebook.com/untilacure600in30
For information about Alzheimer’s reach the Alzheimer's Foundation of America's hotline at 866-232-8484 . or the Alzheimer's Association helpline at 800-272-3900 .