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Lancaster teen is walking for a cause

According to the Alzheimer's Association, one in eight elderly Americans have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and it is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.

Hospice provides people with terminally ill diseases the care and help needed as well as comfort for families. Hospice Buffalo's mission states: "We represent a passionate and diverse team of professionals dedicated to the holistic care of human beings regardless of setting."

Sarah Harris, a junior at Lancaster High School, has been involved with the Hospice Buffalo Memorial Walk since 2004 after her grandmother, Ellie, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Sarah's efforts and participation have helped her raise $14,000 over the past eight years and she continues to take the steps in order to help Hospice Buffalo grow and continue to help patients.

Sarah said that Hospice Buffalo assisted her grandfather in caring for her grandmother, and when her grandmother's condition worsened, she was taken to the Center for Hospice and Palliative Care facility in Cheektowaga.

"We were able to visit her. Hospice was a huge help and we felt like a big family," Sarah said.

As a junior in high school, Sarah has a full schedule. She is an intern at Lancaster Area Chamber of Commerce, a member of the varsity cheerleading team, a volunteer tax preparer at the University at Buffalo and she dances. She balances all of these activities and remains a dedicated student.

Sarah's favorite class is the Academy of Finance, and she is proud to be a part of the distinguished business class.

Her volunteer work adds to her list of accomplishments. In 2011, she was honored as Outstanding Youth Philanthropist by the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

"I was kind of nervous after seeing all of the people at the [awards] luncheon," Sarah said. "After I was done with my speech, I received a standing ovation. I was not expecting that. It was such a great honor."

Sarah was inspired to pursue fundraising for Hospice Buffalo because "it is a great way to pay remembrance," she said. "I saw the memorial walk commercial on TV and said, 'I have to do this.'"

After her grandmother died, Sarah organized a team called "Ellie's Entourage" in her memory.

Sarah credits her strong passion, dedication and the help of her grandfather for being able to raise $14,000 in donations since 2004. This year, her goal is to raise another $500.

The 16th annual Hospice Buffalo 5K Memorial Walk will be held at 11 a.m. May 20 at the Erie Canal Harbor. Today is the last day to register for $25 per walker ($50 after today). Activities, games, face painting, special guests and prizes are planned for the event. For more information, visit

Jillian Hammell is a senior at Hamburg High School.