COLUMBIA — Steven Lackey's yellow flower spun rapidly in the wind as he ate two hot dogs at Stephens Lake Park on Sunday afternoon.
The carbohydrates were fuel for his impending walk.
The flower symbolized why the walk meant something to him.
Lackey was one of more than 600 registered participants at Sunday's Walk to End Alzheimer's.
His yellow flower designated him a "caregiver." His wife, Brenda Lackey, has Alzheimer's.
The other walkers wore an array of flowers to indicate their connection to the disease: blue for walkers diagnosed with Alzheimer's, purple for those who had lost a loved one to the disease and orange for supporters.
Supporters from all over mid-Missouri gathered in Columbia for the event. Members of Team Maggie traveled from Jefferson City and Hannibal. The team wore neon team T-shirts and carried purple flowers.
"This is the most horrendous, awful, saddest disease I've ever seen," Stacey Graves, a member of the team, said.
Her mother, Mary Graves, died after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's 2008.
Many people are being diagnosed with Alzheimer's at younger ages, according to a recent Vox magazine article.
Brenda Lackey is part of this trend.
She was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's three years ago when she was 55.
"It's kind of tough, but she's still got some fight in her," Steven Lackey said.
Her husband is charged with taking care of their kids while Brenda Lackey continues to fight the disease.
"It's bad because we have teenagers in the house," Steven Lackey said. "They're trying to grow up a lot faster than they should."
As a caretaker, he struggles with little things, like attending his 18-year-old daughter's doctor appointments, he said.
Sunday's walk had already raised $58,019.09 before the event started, according to the Alzheimer's Association's website.
And Janie Elson, communications coordinator for the association, said she thinks the event should well exceed the $60,000 goal when all the money is counted.
This money directly benefits the Alzheimer's Association and families like the Lackeys.
Steven Lackey regularly attends the Alzheimer's Association's caregiving classes, and the organization also offers him financial advice.
The money raised Sunday helps make him a better caregiver.
Supervising editor is Edward Hart.