The newest member on the Oxford Walk for Alzheimer's Wall of Fame, Tillsonburg's Zoey Papadakos, is also its youngest.
"It's for people who have raised over $5,000, accumulative," said Shelley Green, Executive Director of the Alzheimer Society of Oxford.
Papadakos was very close to being added to the inaugural Wall of Fame in January 2017, and her $1,000-plus pushed her fundraising total to $6,017 going into the 2018 Walk for Alzheimer's on Saturday, Jan. 20, 9-11 a.m. at the Tillsonburg Community Centre.
And with official inclusion on the Wall of Fame comes a larger than life photo that goes up on the wall at the Lions Auditorium that day.
"It's wonderful," said Green. "She's our youngest person on the Walker Wall of Fame... and that's a huge accomplishment at that age."
Now 14 years old, Papadakos has been raising money for the Walk for Memories since 2011. She raises funds for the Alzheimer Society in memory of her great grandmother, and in support of her great aunt.
"She was only eight when she started," said Green.
"I've been going to it a lot," said Papadakos. "My mom was raising money and I always went and helped her. Then I just kind of took over raising the money."
In her first year, she wanted to raise enough to get a stuffed bear. Then she raised enough to get the $600 incentive reward, a commemorative pin, which includes an invitation to a special lunch/dinner for honorary club members.
"I like getting the bear every year. And I like doing the walk and seeing how much everyone's raised. I've been going with my good friend Clare (McCormick) for a long time, we always found entertainment, and helped out with the kids' activities."
Organizers try to keep it entertaining for all ages, noted Green. There's face painting, clown balloons, colouring, food, and for those a bit older, Passport to Healthier Brains, Lights of Hope (a walking candle light vigil), and mini massages.
Walking is not required. You can walk, or sit and visit friends. Or both. You can do the activities, or not.
Walk for Memories is definitely not based on how far you can walk, she added.
"It's not an important element of the Walk. Some people use it to get exercise, which is great in January, and other people don't. And that's okay."
Zoey has been the youngest member of the $600 club for the last several years, and over the years she has built up a base of regular donors.
"I think I have four or five pins," she said. "We usually put up sheets at our restaurant (Corey's Restaurant) and all the people who usually sponsor me just know that I'm going to put it up every year. So I find a lot of good people there. And my family."
She hasn't done much door-to-door, but expects to do some leading up to this year's Walk for Alzheimer's.
"It's not an easy thing to do," said Green. "That she's willing to do that makes me even more impressed, at such a young age to be committed to the Alzheimer Society, we've never had anybody her age be that committed over this many years. And have such a drive. For her to have such a desire to achieve those levels, I think it's really amazing - and should be encouraging to other people. If a girl that's 8 - and now 14 - is this committed, I think she's a great example for a lot of other people. They might say, 'If Zoey's doing it, then I can join the effort too and raise money for the Alzheimer Society.'"
"It's a really good cause," said Papadakos. "I really like how it supports the community, and helps out the family as well."
Her fundraising efforts in 2018 are still a work in progress.
"I started a little late this year," she said, but was confident she would reach her goal.
"It doesn't take much time to generate quite a bit of money," noted Green. "Once you get started, in a week you could have $1,000. So people don't have to have a lot of time before the event to bring in a good amount of money. And all amounts add up.
"Zoey's parents (George and Nikko) have been an incredible example. They are both very community minded, and from the time she was very, very young her parents were supporting the Alzheimer Society through many different ways. Nikko and George have been a very positive influence on their children to be thinking about others and to do what you can do to make a difference in your community. And that has obviously made a big difference in Zoey's life."
The Papadakos family has raised over $13,000 through the Tillsonburg Charity Duathlon, which made a comeback in May 2017.
"That's a big effort and Zoey's involved with that too," said Green.
Zoey, a triathlon athlete, helped out the first few years, then started competing on a relay team, and last year competed as an individual.
"It was good," she said. "It was cold, but it was fun."
Pledge sheets for the 2018 Walk for Alzheimer's are available in Tillsonburg at Shoppers Drug Mart.
"We just want to encourage people to come," said Green. "If they've never come before, come check it out this year, have a good time. Be a part of something that's positive, that's happening in the community. And for the community because the money stays here. That's an important thing for people to know - the money stays here, it doesn't go anywhere else. So it's serving people in your community and making a difference in lives.
"I think people who are going through dementia, and their family members, when they come to the Walk and they see people from their community there to support them, what better feeling? These people are often strangers to them but they feel that support of the community."