FH leads Alzheimer’s march

The Allegheny College women’s field hockey team attends the “March to End Alzheimer’s” at Diamond Park on Saturday, Oct. 11.

The Allegheny College field hockey team led the “March to End Alzheimer’s” on Saturday, Oct. 8, at Diamond Park in Downtown Meadville.
Allegheny College has not historically participated in the walk, but the decision to do so this year was impacted by the efforts of women’s field hockey team forward Maya Francisco, ’24.
“Alzheimer’s is an issue that is very personal to me and something that I am deeply passionate about,” Francisco said. “My father passed away due to Alzheimer’s last year so doing this was very important to me.”
The walk was organized by the Greater Pennsylvania chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.
Development Manager of Northwest Pennsylvania Alzheimer’s Association Amy Ritzel said that the walk in Meadville is part of a broader awareness campaign.
“I am responsible for organizing four walks,” Ritzel said. “These walks happen in Shenango Valley, Clarion County, Meadville and Warren.”

Francisco explained that she has been raising awareness about Alzheimer’s since last year, but could not organize an event around it due to constraints imposed by COVID-19.
“I talked to (Field Hockey Head Coach Margaret Maclean) about how much raising awareness for this issue meant to me and she thought it would be a good idea to get others involved,” Francisco said. “Last year was a tough season not only on the pitch but also off the pitch for many of us and things were very difficult to organize.”
Saturday’s walk is part of an ongoing awareness campaign by Francisco.
The women’s field hockey team wore purple, the official color of the Alzheimer’s awareness movement, to the Robertson Athletic Complex for their 3-0 victory over Oberlin College on Saturday, Oct. 1.
Francisco reached out to Ritzel to organize a collaboration between the Alzheimer’s Association and the women’s field hockey team.
“(Francisco) has been in contact with me since the beginning of the fall semester,” Ritzel said. “I have been providing her with purple merchandise such as hairbands, and I helped her organize the ‘purple game’ against (Oberlin).”
Both Ritzel and Francisco hope that this collaboration will be a catalyst for further collaboration with Allegheny.
“I think it’s a privilege that we get to lead the walk and represent Allegheny positively in the community,” Francisco said. “I’m hoping that more students will support this and similar initiatives.”
76 participants walked at the event on Saturday and raised $14,283.
After an opening address and briefing, participants set off toward Walnut Street down Diamond Square Park, past the Crawford County Courthouse and the Crawford County Judicial Center. The crowd then moved up Walnut Street before turning right onto Liberty Street. The participants went down Liberty Street before taking a right to Chestnut Street and ending in Diamond Square Park.
Ritzel emphasized the importance of such events to build college and community relations.
“There is a lot of potential for the Allegheny community and the Meadville community to collaborate which isn’t being fulfilled,” Ritzel said. “It’s important that students feel confident enough to take something they’re passionate about and find helping hands within the community.”
Apart from their work in raising awareness for Alzheimer’s, the women’s field hockey team has been active off the field.
“We’ve also been focusing on things such as breast cancer awareness and mental health awareness for students and student-athletes,” Maclean said.
Maclean said that it is important to her that her players feel confident enough to speak with her about their issues or things they are passionate about.
“I have a policy which presents me as my player’s friend before their coach or mentor,” Maclean said. “I believe that when players feel comfortable to be themselves, they play their best.”
Francisco agreed with Maclean.
“I think that we are blessed as athletes to have others around us, in the form of team members and coaches, who care about us and our wellbeing,” Francisco said. “I feel like that gives us a responsibility to look out for others.”
Maclean believes that good team spirit is essential to on and off-the-field success as it instills joint responsibility within her players.
“Everyone on the team understands that they, firstly, have a responsibility to play their part on the pitch and, secondly, that they have a responsibility to be good people off the pitch,” Maclean said.
Consequently, Maclean attributed the women’s field hockey team’s recent winning record of 10-2 to her team’s chemistry and understanding.
“Winning was always a part of the plan but what’s more important is the example the girls are setting for everyone and the positive light in which they have been representing Allegheny,” Maclean said. “My focus is on sustaining this high run of form on and off the pitch.”