Why I Walk: Shared by Mark Baranek
Mark Baranek is Vice President of Projects & Contracts and Interim Senior Vice President of Technical Services at ComEd. In 2023, Mark is also serving as the executive sponsor for the ComEd Cause of the Year program, benefiting the Alzheimer’s Association.
ComEd’s Cause of the Year is an annual program where ComEd employees vote for a cause to focus their giving efforts on for the year. In 2023, ComEd employees selected the Alzheimer’s Association—pledging to contribute a $50,000 corporate conation and more than $50,000 in company-wide fundraising for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. As of October 2023, ComEd has raised more than $108,000 for the cause.
On a brisk Saturday morning in October, my family and I bundled up and headed to Chicago. When we arrived to the Chicago Walk to End Alzheimer’s event, we were greeted with an excited crowed decked out in bright colors to support the cause.
I know that the walks are a great way to raise money and awareness around Alzheimer’s and dementia, but they are also an incredible opportunity to build community and collaborate with others who share a similar goal of finding ways to mitigate and prevent Alzheimer’s in the future. The crowd in Chicago was certainly proof of that.
At the walk, I was able to share how Alzheimer’s has impacted my family. My father struggled with Alzheimer’s in the last few years of his life, and it was a very difficult time for everyone involved. It’s important to remember that Alzheimer’s effects people in their entirety—their mind, their personality and their physical body. Not only was it sad to see my father change and struggle during that period, it was also difficult to see the impact it had on my mother who was his primary caregiver.
As I walked in support of a cure with my family, friends, coworkers and fellow Chicagoans, I thought of my father—but I also thought of the challenges that Alzheimer’s can present to the families navigating this difficult disease. Something people don’t often consider, is that Alzheimer’s is not a disease that only impacts the elderly. There are many individuals living with Alzheimer’s who have young families, which can make the journey much more difficult for those involved.
The Chicago walk was also proof that Alzheimer’s impacts more than just the individual. The loss associated with Alzheimer’s has a much wider reach—extending to the immediate family, friends and greater community. It is quite painful to watch someone no longer have the ability to share their stories and experiences with the people most important to them.
I am grateful that the Alzheimer’s Association lives up to it’s mission of helping end Alzheimer’s. I look forward to the day when these walks are filled with white flowers.