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Raising awareness of dementia – baton relay set to take place

Published: 12 October 2022

Baton relay around Exeter set to raise awareness of dementia Exeter Dementia Action Alliance Baton Relay

A poignant baton relay will finally take place in Exeter this weekend to celebrate the memories of those who lived with or are living with dementia.

The relay, which has been organised by Exeter Dementia Action Alliance – the chosen charity of Exeter’s Lord Mayor – was due to be held last month but was postponed because of the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

The event was organised to mark World Alzheimer’s Month.

Baton bearers will set off from Exeter’s historic Guildhall at 9.30am carrying a handmade baton 19 miles around parts of the Exeter Cosy Route, which circles the city and was created by the Alliance in September 2020.

Alongside the baton bearing team will be people whose loved ones have been affected by dementia, including those living with it, who have been pre-invited to carry the baton for short intervals where safe to do so.

Wider participation on the day will come from a number of people whose memories of loved ones with dementia will be included inside the baton on a digital memory stick. These messages will be printed out and put on display at the Guildhall on Saturday 22 October at the Lord Mayor’s coffee morning from 10am until 1pm, where some of the participants will attend and receive a medal and cartoon as a thank you for their efforts.

The Memory Baton Relay was the idea of Alliance board member Jo Earlam, who was inspired by seeing the Commonwealth Games baton relay go through Exeter on 4 July.

“I’d spent the weekend thinking and talking about what the Alliance might do in September for World Alzheimer’s Month, being the Lord Mayor’s Charity for this year. On the Monday night watching BBC Spotlight and seeing coverage of the Commonwealth Games baton relay, I suddenly thought, ooh how about a baton relay celebrating memories and the idea took shape from there.”

Gina Awad, lead and founder of Exeter Dementia Action Alliance said: “Shining a light on dementia across Exeter, raising awareness and making a difference for families affected by the disease is at the core of everything we do.

“In recent years my uncle, who I’m also proud to call my godfather was diagnosed with frontal lobe dementia. I have been able to spend quality time with him and learnt a lot about his navy days I’m sure I would never have known.  So many stories that made us giggle. Things have progressed now, but I cherish those memories.

“Whilst dementia can be so hard for the whole family it is incredibly important to appreciate what the person can do, not what they cannot.  One day I believe there will be a cure but until then we will continue doing what we do.”

Jo said: “I’ve experienced the impact of dementia through three generations of family, both my late grandmothers, my father Bernard who died in 2015 aged 73, and now my husband John, who’s 78, and was diagnosed with mixed dementia five years ago.

“I have wonderful memories of spending time with my grandmothers and my dad, and in caring now for John, amid the difficult times there’s still a lot of laughter and special moments. It would be wonderful if the messages in the memory baton celebrate the warm-hearted feelings that I know so many people have for their loved ones who lived or are living with dementia.”

Also, within the baton will be a message from the Lord Mayor of Exeter, Cllr Yolonda Henson, and a picture specially drawn by award-winning cartoonist Tony Husband, a copy of this picture will be given to all baton carriers, along with a Cosy Route medal. The Lord Mayor will join the baton bearing team for a short section of the route.

She said: “I am incredibly honoured to be asked to take part in this relay, which will do wonders to raise the profile of dementia and the Exeter Dementia Action Alliance, my chosen charity, but also celebrate memories of those people who have lived with dementia or who are currently living with it in some way.”

The main baton bearers will be Simon Hollyer and Dave Wright, both experienced long- distance runners with Sidmouth Running Club, and the first two people to complete the full 26.2 miles marathon distance COSY Route when it was created in September 2020. More club members and other runners will be in support at different stages of the route.

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