A few months ago I started volunteering for the Alzheimer’s Association. In some ways it was prompted by my desire to reconnect with the organization that started my career path in the public sector. I spent one summer as a volunteer intern with the South Dakota chapter and, through that, realized I was meant to pursue a career in nonprofits and public service.
What drew me to the organization in the first place was my own connection with Alzheimer’s. My grandmother on my dad’s side had Alzheimer’s, and I don’t think I have a single memory with her where she wasn’t impacted by the disease. While most kids my age seemed to have the quintessential grandparent experience (though the disease is more prevalent than I realized at the time), I had a grandmother who didn’t know who I was.
On Thursday night there was a kick-off for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s to get everyone geared up and remind people why they walk. One of the activities at the walk this year is a “Why I Walk” board. Each person is encouraged to write on a purple footprint why (or for whom) they walk. This one caught my eye:
That thought has stuck with me ever since. Wouldn’t that be fantastic? As one of the speakers mentioned on Thursday night, wouldn’t it be great if, instead of a walk to end Alzheimer’s, we could instead have a walk to celebrate survivorship? It’s exactly what inspires me to walk and try to spread awareness about Alzheimer’s.
Given my family history, there’s a good chance that I or one of my sisters could end up with Alzheimer’s. But right now we’re scared to no end that it could impact one of our parents. I think that’s why “I walk so my kids never have to” is so impactful to me. I don’t know how my dad did it. I don’t know how millions of caregivers do it. All I know is that my heart would break into a million pieces if my one of my parents or a close loved one looked at me and couldn’t remember who I was and the lifetime of stories, experiences and love we’ve shared.
It’s one of those things that can keep you up at night, but unlike many chronic health conditions, there’s no real way to prevent it. That’s what’s scary. And that’s why I walk.
I mention all of this for a slightly selfish purpose. As a participant in the walk, I’m trying to raise funds that go back to the agency to provide resources and support to caregivers and advance research. Any donation helps. Or you’re more than welcome to join my team and can even do so virtually! (Dogs are even welcome at the walk, though since I’m helping with the walk I don’t think Hurley will be there to support the cause.)
If you’d like to make a donation or join my team, just visit my fundraising page. I promise you it’s going to a fabulous cause.
And with that, I’ll get off my soapbox.