First Ladies walk with a purpose
Before the Washington Nationals took the field for their Spring Training home opener in Viera against the New York Mets, the Nationals First Ladies and the Central & North Florida Alzheimer’s Association teamed up for the Space Coast Memory Walk, that took place on Saturday.
For those not familiar with the First Ladies, the group consists of the wives, girlfriends and fiancÃ©s of Nationals players and coaches and they help out with different community events throughout the year.
Ashley Balester, wife of Nats reliever Collin Balester, is very involved with the First Ladies and helped coordinate the Space Coast Memory Walk with the Alzheimer’s Association.
“I think it’s just good for us to be able to say on behalf of the Nationals, to the fans around here to say, ‘Come with us and walk with us at the stadium,’ to kind of get the community involved with the Nationals more,” Balester said.
Last year’s walk took place at Erna Nixon Park in Melbourne and in order to increase awareness and visibility in the community, the event was moved to Space Coast Stadium.
“The support we received from the Washington Nationals First Ladies last year made us feel that Space Coast Stadium would be the perfect 2010 home for [the] Memory Walk,” said Joan Giovanni, Events and Community Relations Coordinator of the Central & North Florida Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.
The First Ladies have gotten the word out to friends, family and the community to pledge money to their team for the walk and they have already doubled their total donation from last year.
“I think we raised just over $2,000 last year and this year we are already at $4,000,” Balester said. “It’s been really good.”
The money raised helps those affected by the disease locally and funds research grants nationally. The Alzheimer’s Association also lobbies to Congress to increase funding nationally, to assist caregivers and those diagnosed with the disease.
The First Ladies have multiple programs to benefit the community in the Washington, DC area, but are now looking to increase their impact on the community during their time in Brevard County, as they plan on coordinating other fund raising efforts as well.
“I want to organize a bake sale, to benefit Share Our Strength, which is a national organization to fight childhood hunger,” Balester said. “I want to do that and we are getting involved to collect non-perishable food donations for a local organization in Melbourne.
“I am always open and available to do anything in the community, if anyone ever wants our help for anything.”