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UNF hosts the 2021 Walk to End Alzheimer's, family of UNF professor honored

In honor of National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month, UNF will host the 2021 Walk to End Alzheimer's, presented by Baptist Health, Saturday, Nov. 6, at the UNF Coxwell Amphitheater. In addition, the Acosta Bridge in downtown Jacksonville will turn purple in honor of National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month, for the first time ever.

For 15-year-old Gabe Coleman, the bridge change represents a major victory in the fight to cure a disease affecting roughly 1 in 37 Floridians. When Coleman's grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, he began fundraising for the upcoming Walk to End Alzheimer's, getting the word out at school and anywhere else he could, and successfully raised awareness for the bridge to turn purple to honor the fight.

Dr. Corrie Labyak, UNF associate professor of nutrition and dietetics, serves on the walk committee and her mother, Elizabeth “Betty” Hurtz, will be honored during the 9 a.m. opening ceremony. Betty was a registered nurse and one of the original nurses that helped establish what is now Community Hospice in Jacksonville.

“Alzheimer’s was never on our families’ radar,” shared Labyak. “When my Mom was formally diagnosed in 2018, we were left with little hope from the doctors as there is no cure. I dove into the research to be left with no answers. It is an awful and helpless feeling to know there is nothing you can do to keep the horrible disease from progressing.” 

Labyak and other UNF nutrition department researchers are currently working on a research study that is conducting focus groups with caregivers of a loved one with dementia and health care professionals that specialize in dementia care. They will use the information generated to create a meaningful program that aims to improve nutrition and quality of life in those caregivers and family members suffering with dementia. 

“If at the end of the day, I improve one person’s experience moving through the progression of this terrible disease, then I have done my job,” said Labyak. “In the future, my hope is through education and research to be able to teach proper nutrition and lifestyle habits to prevent future generations from having to suffer with this disease. And all of this I will do in honor of my beautiful and loving mom.”

“The support from Terri Cantrell and the Alzheimer's Association of Central/North Florida has been incredible,” Labyak concluded. “Their unwavering commitment and love has made such a difference in navigating this disease for so many families. We must continue this fight together to find a cure.”

Register for the walk, sign up to volunteer or make a donation via the Walk to End Alzheimer’s website. If you are a caregiver of someone with dementia and/or healthcare professional that specialize in dementia care and you wish to take part in the UNF study, email Dr. Labyak at