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Why I walk: for my Dad, my hero

Why I walk: for my Dad, my hero

Walk-imageOne year ago this September, Andrea Mailhot’s father was diagnosed with dementia.  She knew nothing about the disease. But the Alzheimer Society was there to help.  She attended an information session about dementia, which was a godsend for her.

At the session, Andrea heard about the Society’s signature fundraising event, the Walk for Memories. Two weeks later, she had organized a small team of volunteers to participate in the unique indoor walk. That first year would prove to be especially difficult  as her new reality became more apparent.

“While it was heartwarming to see so many people supporting their loved ones who have dementia or walking in their memory, it suddenly sank in that my father, my hero, was now one of them,” recalls Andrea.

She remembers how the Society representative she had met at the information session noticed her crying, went over and walked a few laps with her. “She hardly knew me. I couldn’t believe it when she contacted me two weeks later, wanting to know how I was doing,” says Andrea. “That’s how much they care.”  Although she only had two weeks to plan that first year, Andrea managed to raise about $400.

One of the most difficult challenges for Andrea is how her father’s personality changes so drastically. She continues to get help from the Society, receiving guidance on how to best care for and interact with him. “I don’t know how they do it,” she says. “Whenever I send an email, I get an answer the same day.”

Andrea has found other novel ways to raise funds. She teamed up with a good friend who raises funds for the Breast Cancer Foundation, and the two share the proceeds of bake sales, bottle drives and garage sales organized throughout the year between the two charities.

Prominent at the Walk this year will be a poster of Andrea’s dad with a touching narrative of what he means to her.  “My dad is my hero,” she wrote.  “He taught me everything I know. He’s still a proud man, and I don’t want him to lose that part of himself. It’s hard watching him age so quickly, forgetting to eat…. being a prisoner in his own home.”

What is Andrea’s major motivation for participating in the Walk for Memories? “There is no other place where one can go for education about this awful disease, and we know so little about it,” she says.  “The kind of support the Society offers is beyond amazing.”

To register for Walk for Memories, go to www.walkformemories.ca

Written by Nicole Chenier-Cullen, Alzheimer Society Volunteer

2014 Walk for Memories: meet walker Casey Peters

2014 Walk for Memories: meet walker Casey Peters

It all started with her cookies. My Nonna (grandma in Italian) made the best oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. They were a staple of my childhood. One day, when I was a teenager, the cookies tasted different.

It was such a small thing, but I noticed, because they had always tasted the same. When I started working part-time after school, I couldn’t bake with her as often. And the cookies changed even more.

She started forgetting small details things, not remembering parts of her day, and getting lost on her daily walk. For a few years, we didn’t know what was going on, until a doctor’s appointment revealed that Nonna had dementia.

Since then, it has been a difficult journey. My family had struggled at the beginning and sometimes we still do. But thankfully the Alzheimer Society was there for us, providing support and services to help us better understand what my Nonna was going through and what we could do to help.

Watching my Nonna struggle with this disease has been so eye-opening for me. I’ve realized that she is not the same person she once was. She lives in a retirement home, but needs more care than they can provide and is now on the long wait-list for long-term care.

When I see the terrible effects of this disease—she can become angry and agitated and acts in other ways so unlike her—I can’t even believe that this is the same person with whom I used to watch soap operas, bake, and go on trips. Fortunately, I still have those memories. But it saddens me when I am reminded that she doesn’t.

Last year, my mom, who has been one of the biggest pillars of support for my Nonna, participated in the Walk for Memories, the Alzheimer Society’s most important fundraiser. This year I plan to join her. The Alzheimer Society has helped my family understand this disease and provided us with resources to help improve my Nonna’s quality of life. For that, I am truly grateful. I want to make sure others can receive the same kind of help I was so fortunate to.

So I’m walking, not only to say thank you, but also for the people and their families who struggle with the disease today and for those who will tomorrow. Though it may be a long shot, maybe one day a little girl will be able to bake cookies with her grandma well into old age and have them taste the exact same as they always had.

casey-petersCasey Peters

Walk for Memories Walker, Team Home Hardware

Kitchener-Waterloo

 

Walk for Memories: meet Walker Kim Zuliana

Walk for Memories: meet Walker Kim Zuliana

Alzheimer’s affects me both personally and professionally. The Walk For Memories is a great way to gather many who are affected by this disease to help promote awareness, raise funds and to just support each other by sharing stories. Everyone is affected one way or another and with an aging population. This walk allows us to take the next steps to help cure Alzheimer’s disease or related Dementias.

I walk for my beautiful Grandmother Cecile Bertuzzi. She has always been an inspiration in so many ways. This woman would give the shirt off her back for anyone in need, she only gave love and affection, she was the best cook ever, she cleaned like no one could ever clean and she always made sure her family was taken care of.

My Grandmother may not remember me but I remember her and who she was as an individual as well as a Grandmother. When I am with her and she looks at me and says “Ohhhh you are so beautiful” or “Oh I love you”…those are my moments and wouldn’t change that for the world.

Thank you Walk for Memories for giving me the opportunity to participate in helping with a cure for Alzheimer’s disease and related Dementias.

To sponsor Kim or another Walker, or to participate by finding a Walk near you, visit the Walk for Memories website.

kimKim Zuliana

Walk for Memories Walker, Sudbury

Walk for Memories profile: meet Wendy and Larry Smith

Walk for Memories profile: meet Wendy and Larry Smith

Meet Wendy and Larry Smith. They have been volunteering for the Alzheimer Society’s Walk for Memories in Ottawa since its inception 19 years ago.  Like the Walk, Wendy and Larry have experienced a number of changes during that period of time.

In the beginning, Wendy worked for an Ottawa-based Chartered Accounting firm, Collins Barrow Ottawa LLP, which had encouraged its employees to get involved in the community. The Alzheimer Society was one of a number of organizations that Collins Barrow supported.  Employees and family members alike from the organisation became involved with this great cause.  This was the start of the Smiths ongoing history of volunteering for the Alzheimer Society.

Little did they know that Alzheimer’s disease would touch close to home some years later!

In 1995, the Walk for Memories was based at the Carlingwood Mall.  It was a great place to begin an activity that combined exercise with a good cause. Max Keeping, a local broadcast legend, was an infectious spirit who would lead the bagpiper round the Mall with the walkers following in their footsteps on a quest to raise money for this worthy cause.  In recent years, the Walk for Memories was relocated to its present- day location of Carleton University’s Field House.

Throughout its history, the Walk provided an opportunity for the Smiths and others to gather together as a united front to support this worthy cause. However, it wasn’t long until the annual walk became more meaningful for the Smiths when it was revealed that Wendy’s aunt and Larry’s father were both diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.  While volunteering as a registration pair, it gave them an opportunity to talk to individuals walking for their loved ones who had succumbed to this dreaded disease.  Year after year, they would recognize the walkers, share stories, measure progress against their own loved ones as Alzheimer’s continued to mark progress on the unsuspecting prey.  Collectively, they believed that by participating in the annual Walk they were making a difference in the fight against this debilitating disease.

Although their loved ones have passed on and the goal of a cure has not yet been realized, the Smiths remain committed to supporting the annual Walk for Memories.  Each year, the end of January calls for a renewed commitment to continue the fight against this disease.

Although the faces of past walkers fade away, new faces pick up and the battle continues towards better treatment and – hopefully – a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.

To find a Walk near you, sign up to Walk or support a Walker, visit the Walk website.

larry-smithLarry and Wendy Smith

Walk for Memories Walkers

Why you should walk for the Alzheimer Society

Why you should walk for the Alzheimer Society

2012 walk for memories 2

It’s devastating to lose someone while he is still alive. I watched my father deteriorate from Alzheimer’s disease and my mother struggle to care for him. During that difficult time, the Alzheimer Society of Kitchener-Waterloo supported them through its programs and services.

That is why I’ve walked for the Alzheimer Society these last eight years. And that’s why I’m doing it again this year. At the Walk, people with the disease, their caregivers, friends and family come together to show support for their local Alzheimer Society.

It’s inspiring to see the community rally behind people with Alzheimer’s disease. The money supports families who have been affected by the disease in the Kitchener-Waterloo region.

As a volunteer at many Alzheimer Society programs like brain boosters, an education series and social events for people with the disease, I can tell you that these programs can be a lifesaver for people with dementia and their caregivers.

But the money also helps in the effort to find a cure. And that’s something I want to be a part of.

People with dementia and their caregivers need your help. So please, sign up to walk in your community, sponsor someone who is walking or volunteer your time at the event.

Elaine Mortensen2012 walk for memories

Volunteer, Walk for Memories Walker,

Alzheimer Society of Kitchener-Waterloo