CHICAGO (CBS) — The Walk to End Alzheimer’s disease draws thousands of people downtown and raises more than a million dollars every fall.

Many other organizations canceled their big events during the COVID-19 pandemic or switched to entirely virtual events.

But as CBS 2’s Tim McNicholas reported Friday, creative organizers figured out a way to keep part of an actual walk – and do it safely.

“They can hopefully find a cure someday,” said Trisha Cassel.

Cassel walks not just to raise awareness, but in honor of her late grandmother, who lost her life to Alzheimer’s.

“I think about all the good things I had with her when she was the strong happy person that I loved so much,” Cassel said.

McNicholas met Cassel at Soldier Field, where she met with about 5,000 people last fall. They walked the lakefront near the stadium and eventually the concourse.

They raised about $1.3 million.

“Alzheimer’s Association is still running. They have a 24-hour support line people can call if they have the disease if they are a caregiver,” Cassel said. “It’s important that we raise money so those services can still continue and the research can continue.”

But a massive fundraising walk in 2020 might make an epidemiologist cringe.

McNicholas asked Walk to End Alzhemier’s director Mary DeMars is she was worried the walk might have to be canceled.

“No,” DeMars said. “This walk, it’s the world’s largest fundraiser and awareness, so we knew the walk was happening.”

So DeMars and her team of organizers came up with a plan. Rather than everyone walking together downtown, people will walk in small groups around their own neighborhoods – safely and socially distanced.

“Whatever you feel comfortable,” DeMars said. “If you only feel comfortable literally wearing a mask and walking around the block by yourself, we encourage you to do so.”

You can even log your steps on the Walk to End Alzheimer’s app, or tune into an online stream showing the Promise Garden – a display of colorful flowers representing caregivers, patients, and their loved ones.

“They can see it and still feel like it’s happening without everyone being together,” Cassel said.

After your walk, you’ll even be able to drive by to see the display outside Soldier Field – appropriate for a place full of tradition.

If you’d like to walk along in your neighborhood, it’s Oct. 10. You should wear purple.

You can also donate to a walker participating in the fundraiser at the Walk to End Alzheimer’s website.

Tim McNicholas