(2 year old Sandy sits with mom Joyce Knicely and grandfather, Frank Straub)
Sandy LaFave was just “twenty-something” when her grandfather, Frank Straub, decided to admit himself to a nursing home. Straub, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, was already in his late 80’s. He suffered a heat stroke after being in his backyard for an extended period of time. As Sandy recalls, her grandfather simply couldn’t remember that he was in his own backyard, with the cool comfort of his family home just a few feet away. “I was fortunate that he was quite elderly when the final stages impacted him,” said Sandy. “I can’t imagine something like Alzheimer’s disease impacting a much younger person, which does occur more frequently.”
Sandy is deeply concerned about how this devastating disease will impact future generations. Finding a cure, while providing care and support for those affected, is her passion and the reason she has been a key volunteer at the Alzheimer’s Association for the last seven years. Sandy is involved both personally, as the chair of the Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Milwaukee County, and professionally, heading up the mega-successful Walk to End Alzheimer’s fundraising efforts at Brookdale Senior Living’s Milwaukee support office, where she serves as Communications Director.
“It is humbling and quite an honor to be chairperson for the Milwaukee Walk again this year,” said Sandy. “Walks are so important, not solely for the fundraising aspect, but for the ability to raise awareness, to support those impacted by Alzheimer’s and for advocacy.”
Brookdale Senior Living, a senior living solutions provider with more than 650 senior living communities nationwide, is involved as a National Walk to End Alzheimer’s Team. Their communities, along with their support offices located in Nashville, Milwaukee, Chicago and Tampa, have set an incredible corporate example by becoming the first National Team to raise $750,000 a year. Last year, the Milwaukee support office, comprised of more than 400 employees, raised over $150,000 for the Milwaukee County Walk to End Alzheimer’s via a golf outing, and a hugely successful “Casual for the Cause” bracelet sale, amongst other fundraising activities and events. “It’s cool. It’s fun”, said Sandy. “Once we get on a roll here in the Milwaukee office, every department hosts an event. Keeping it fresh is important, so we try to make things fun and different.”
But Sandy is quick to point out that the Alzheimer’s mission is what truly propels the effort of Brookdale’s workforce… not being number one. “At Brookdale Senior Living, we are so very passionate about our support of the Alzheimer’s Association. It is truly a partnership between all associates. At our Milwaukee office, we also have a great partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association staff. They are truly an amazing group.”
Sandy acknowledges that sometimes it’s lonely at the top of the Walk to End Alzheimer’s heap and she enthusiastically encourages other local corporations to step-up their participation in their local community Walk. “We’d love to have some friendly competition at the corporate level,” Sandy exclaimed!
Consider yourself challenged by the best.
(Alzheimer's Association Executive Director Tom Hlavacek and Sandy LaFave, Chair, Walk to End Alzheimer's, Milwaukee)