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The Longest Day: The Magic of Rowing Intentional 10s

The Longest Day: The Magic of Rowing Intentional 10s
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March 21, 2022
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The following was first published in the September 2021 issue of Alpha Delta KAPPAN. It has been adapted for our blog. The Alpha Delta Kappa sorority is a 2022 Global Team for The Longest Day. Together, chapters across the country will raise over $100,000 for Alzheimer’s care support and research

By Jessica L. Willis, AK Alpha, State Co-President-elect
Robby Bear and I are AK Alpha Chapter sisters. We are also Alaska rowers who accepted the AΔK challenge to fight Alzheimer’s on The Longest Day by rowing with our teammates and friends.

Robby recruited seven other dedicated rowers for our 8+. I volunteered to be the coxswain. On the serene, drizzly morning of Saturday, June 19, 2021 at Sand Lake, the lake where Anchorage Rowing Association Club members train from early May to early October, we gathered to row, to remember, to support those fighting and to find a cure. For this challenge and to show our support, we decided to row with intentionality. 

Our 8+ was made up of rowers who have family members, friends, coworkers or neighbors living with (and some who lost friends or loved ones to) Alzheimer’s. Our row began with our standard warm up, then we settled into a steady pace. Feeling we were in our groove, I began to call out “Intentional 10s.” For every 10 strokes, I called out the name of a loved one with Alzheimer’s and my crew rowed 10 strokes for that individual. We did this down the 1000m lake and back, for 8000m, until we rowed ten strokes for each Alzheimer’s connection. 

As I steered our rowing shell, calling out every set of 10 strokes, I felt the power and intentionality of each sweep over each rower in my boat. I could feel them pouring their hearts and minds into each stroke, rowing to make a difference in the lives of Alzheimer’s patients. How lucky was I to be a part of something so magical?
Jessica and Robby are planning to row again for The Longest Day 2022, supporting their team, the Alaska Alpha Delta Kappa Forget-Me-Nots. Here, the two share their personal connections to Alzheimer’s and reasons for fighting the disease.

Jessica: Rowing in honor of my mother-in-law, Ruby

"When I met my husband, Rick, in Alaska in 2002, he took me to Billings, Mont. to meet his mom and family. His mom, Ruby, was living with Alzheimer's. Ruby had been living with Rick's sister for years until she needed more care and moved into assisted living. This is where I first met her. The Alzheimer's had progressed to the point that she did not recognize Rick, and he had to introduce himself as her second-to-youngest son. I really enjoyed meeting her. She was very conversant, but it was difficult seeing how she had no memory of Rick. 

Fortunately, Ruby was able to be at our wedding ceremony and a little bit of our reception in Billings in March 2003. She was in a wheelchair. Not only were we able to get pictures with our mothers, but Rick was able to "dance" with her before she needed to leave the reception. These memories we both hold close. 

We were able to visit her more, prior to her passing in February 2005. Always, Rick had to introduce himself, yet she remembered me. For this I was grateful, but more so heartbroken that she could not remember her son or any of her children." - Jessica L. Willis

Robby: Rowing in honor of my in-laws and for my children’s future

"The past four years of my life have been consumed with helping my husband care for his parents as they move through the stages of Alzheimer’s. My husband’s parents, who we have always been close to, both started showing signs of dementia in their late 80s. Before their decline, they were vibrant, articulate world travelers who were active in their church and enjoyed socializing with friends.

As my mother-in-law’s health declined, her ability to care for herself and to move about without falling diminished greatly as she reached her 90th birthday. We began a search for support, utilizing the local Alzheimer’s Association resource information. My mother-in-law’s Alzheimer’s progressed fairly rapidly and after a variety of unsuccessful efforts to keep her safe at home, we moved her into assisted living. My husband was her primary support person during the transition: assisted living, severe dementia, a diagnosis of lung cancer, hospice and death just a month after her 92nd birthday.

After my mother-in-law passed in 2020, it has been up to my husband to close her affairs and manage those of his father, who is still living. My 96-year-old father-in-law is now in assisted living, having lived in his home independently until he was 95 (albeit with our support over the past three years). His cognitive decline currently is moderate and he is able to perform most of his own activities of daily living.

For my husband and I, this journey of helping his parents through their Alzheimer’s journeys has been difficult and life changing. Although we have appreciated the time spent with his parents, and the opportunity to help them live the best life they are able, we also realize that we do not wish for our children to have the same experience of great personal sacrifice, heartache and stress. I am participating in The Longest Day to help find a way to slow down and ultimately end Alzheimer’s and other dementias in order to prevent my children from living through what my husband and I are experiencing — along with millions of other adults with Alzheimer’s and their caretakers in the U.S." - Robby Bear

The day with the most light is the day we fight! Join Jessica, Robby and thousands of people across the world in raising funds and awareness for The Longest Day. Learn more and register now at


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