Blair Godbout, of Crystal Falls, is one of more than 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease and among the roughly 5 percent of those who were diagnosed before they turned 65.

Godbout was 58 when he found out he had Alzheimer’s eight years ago after becoming more and more forgetful at his job of 27 years as a photo editor for the Associated Press, said his wife, Sheri Malone.

“Alzheimer’s is not just for old people,” she said. “Before he got diagnosed, I never even thought of Alzheimer’s.”

The couple and about 20 of their friends walked along the Dragoon Gulch Trail in downtown Sonora on Saturday to raise awareness about the disease and raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association.

They would typically participate in the annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Merced, but the event was cancelled this year due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Malone said they previously lived in Los Angeles and moved to Tuolumne County almost immediately after her husband’s diagnosis to be closer to his family and enjoy the smaller town atmosphere.

“Sonora is the most supportive community,” she said. “I don’t know if we would be doing this well if we lived anywhere else.”

People who walked with the couple on Saturday were neighbors, people from their gym and friends they’ve met camping and going out dancing.

There’s currently no cure for Alzheimer’s, though activities that help keep patients healthy include exercises, eating well, socializing and music, the latter of which helps stimulate parts of the brain being affected by the disease.

Leann Hatler, co-owner of JL Forged Fitness in East Sonora, trains Godbout at her gym and said their focus is on workouts that help improve his mobility and balance to keep him safe in his environment.

“We have to meet him where he’s at each day,” she said. “He might be kind of foggy when he comes in, but by the time he leaves, he’s firing on all cylinders.”

Though the Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Merced wasn’t held this year, the couple is still raising money to benefit research into a cure for the disease.

People can donate to Blair’s Dream Team for the Alzheimer’s Association at: https://act.alz.org/site/TR?fr_id=13299&pg=team&team_id=622858

Contact Alex MacLean at amaclean@uniondemocrat.net or (209) 768-5175.

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