John Middleton led a walk for Alzheimer’s two years after his Emmerdale character, who had been diagnosed with dementia, died.
The actor said he could not walk away from the issue after playing vicar Ashley Thomas on the ITV soap.
The character passed away in 2017, two years after receiving a shock diagnosis of young onset vascular dementia.
Opening the Alzheimer’s Society’s Memory Walk at York Knavesmire, Middleton told the crowd: “Going into that Emmerdale storyline made me realise the issues that people living with dementia face.
“It’s a huge, huge issue.
“Having walked into it, I can’t walk away from it, so I’m doing this walk today.”
He went on: “Sixty-seven thousand people are diagnosed with dementia in the Yorkshire and Humber region alone so it’s big for the region, it’s big for the whole country – it’s the biggest health concern that we face.
“But today we’re united against dementia and we’re going to have a lovely walk.”
“Every penny raised goes to help Alzheimer’s Society with their campaigning, their care for people with dementia and their research,” added the actor, who starred in the soap for 20 years.
“Let’s find a cure, let’s look after these people, and let’s have a great day.”
Judith King, head of region at the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “Dementia is now the UK’s biggest killer, with someone developing it every three minutes – yet dementia research still trails far behind other health conditions, after decades of underfunding.
“I am absolutely delighted that hundreds of people from across Yorkshire united against dementia at the York Memory Walk, to improve the lives of people living with the condition.”
The Alzheimer’s Society said that in the hour-and-a-half it takes to complete the average Memory Walk, 30 people will develop dementia in the UK.
The organisation is committed to spending at least £150 million over the next decade on dementia research to improve care and find a cure.
There are more Memory Walks planned and people can also organise their own event. For details see memorywalk.org.uk.