Mahopac Woman Plans 115-Mile Pilgrimage In Italy

A woman from Mahopac is embarking on a 115-mile spiritual journey throughout Italy to honor her father and raise funds and awareness for Alzheimer’s Disease.

Karen Ganis and her father, who died of Alzheimer's Disease 20 years ago
Karen Ganis and her father, who died of Alzheimer's Disease 20 years ago Photo Credit: Karen Ganis
Karen Ganis and her father with her sisters
Karen Ganis and her father with her sisters Photo Credit: Karen Ganis

Karen Ganis is visiting Italy this June to make a 115-mile pilgrimage on foot from Palermo to Agricento. The trip is considered a spiritual journey for many people who make it.

Ganis says the journey will be a chance to honor her father, who died from Alzheimer’s Disease 20 years ago. She is turning her journey into a Longest Day fundraiser in order to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association Hudson Valley Chapter.

The Longest Day is named in recognition of the long days caregivers of dementia patients typically endure. The event encourages people to do any activity of their choosing to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s. Though Longest Day fundraisers don’t have to be held on the actual longest day of the year, the summer solstice, Ganis’ trip aligns perfectly, and she will begin her journey on Friday, June 21.

“It was a good timing for it; it was a good location for me,” Ganis said. “I just thought it would be a really nice way to challenge myself, and it just happens that the first day of this hike is on The Longest Day. At first, I thought it would just be more about awareness, but when I found out it was on The Longest Day, I realized it would be great to make money.”

Ganis is embarking on the trip alongside the 15 other members of her group, called The Temple Project. She hopes to raise $10,000 for the cause along the way by shooting short videos on the trail in honor of different people each day.

“There’s eight days of hiking. I’m going video myself doing little snippets of who I’m doing it for on each particular day. The first day and the longest day, I’m going to do for my dad. The next day, for my grandmother, my father’s mother. Then for three of my father’s siblings and my cousin, one of my aunts who had Alzheimer’s, and now her daughter has it. So for me, it’s a very personal mission.”

Ganis is also encouraging people who donate to her fundraiser to share the names of any loved ones they wish to honor so that she can read the names aloud as she arrives at her pilgrimage destination.

“What I’m trying to do is -- I told people that if they make a donation, when I get to Agrigento, I will read every single name in memory of whoever the donors want to have honored so they kind of will be with me,” she said. “If I get 10,000 people to donate a dollar, what a beautiful thing that would be.”

To donate to Karen Ganis’ Longest Day fundraiser, click here. You can also follow her journey on Facebook.

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