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Alzheimer’s Association Volunteers Prove That Anything is Possible

Alzheimer’s Association Volunteers Prove That Anything is Possible
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April 19, 2021
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We are powered by passionate volunteers. From support group facilitators and community educators to our advocates and event participants, our volunteers make an impact, bringing us closer to our vision of a world without Alzheimer’s and all other dementia. With deep gratitude, THANK YOU to all who are making a difference in the fight to end Alzheimer’s!

Community educators Ralph and Mollie Richards

Ralph and Mollie Richards have decades of expertise in counseling people through the challenges of Alzheimer’s disease after experiencing dementia in their own families. Ralph’s dad’s second wife had Alzheimer’s, and Mollie’s father was diagnosed with vascular dementia when she was just 17 and about to head off to college. She shares her personal story and connection to dementia because “it’s a way to connect with people on a different level. Communication is about relationships and sharing stories.”

As much of the educational outreach work Ralph and Mollie do is faith-based, they ask questions that help build trust, and don’t treat interactions as one-time educational sessions. Ralph shares: “We ask people: ‘Did the resources we provided prove useful? What else do you need? What have you learned now that you’ve researched Alzheimer’s disease a bit more?’” In their presentations, the couple opens up and shares the knowledge they have gained over the past decades. “We listen, we share, we inform and if we don’t have an answer, we find it,” Ralph says.

As sought-after speakers of the faith-based community and as Alzheimer’s Association volunteers, Ralph and Mollie are making an impact in the community they have called home for most of their lives. Both retired, the Richards serve as volunteer community educators for the Greater Indiana Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association and are members of the community advisory council of the Indiana University Alzheimer’s Disease Center. Read more of Ralph and Mollie’s story.

Thank you to all our community educators across the country who are delivering Alzheimer’s Association programs and breaking down the stigma that can hinder families seeking help and support. 

Support group facilitator Janis Jasinsky

When her mom Grayce passed away due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease in 2014, Washington State resident Janis Jasinsky wanted to get more involved with the cause.

Today, in addition to being a longtime Alzheimer’s Association fundraiser, Janis gives her time, energy and talent as a support group facilitator to help other families facing dementia. “Becoming a support group facilitator has been a deeply satisfying way to help caregivers,” Janis said. “Best of all, it allows me to honor my mom by sharing her story with others, which is something I can do through real-life examples.”
Janis has continued her volunteerism by conducting her support group virtually throughout the pandemic. And through all the technical glitches of 2020, she carried on her work with a sense of humor and calm demeanor, saying: “I’m so glad that we can use technology to reach caregivers in times of social isolation.” Janis volunteers with the Oregon & Southwest Washington Chapter.

We thank all of our support group facilitators for carrying on their volunteerism and adapting so successfully in these unprecedented times.

Advocate Grace Williams

Alzheimer’s Association advocate and Alzheimer’s disease researcher Grace Williams lost her father to Alzheimer’s, and her paternal grandmother to dementia. It was when she was in college that Grace learned about the annual AIM Alzheimer’s Association Advocacy Forum, the nation’s premier Alzheimer’s disease advocacy event. “Prior to attending the Advocacy Forum, I swore I was the only young person with a parent with this disease,” Grace said. The experience made me realize that I was not alone.”

The Advocacy Forum was the first time Grace got to share her story, and she shared it with other young advocates like her, impacted by the disease. “We spent hours plotting what we wanted to change about how Alzheimer’s is talked about and funded in our country. It was a huge sense of community, full of hopes and plans for making positive change. And it was an opportunity for me to try to improve outcomes at a policy level.” 
Although being part of the Alzheimer’s community is not something anyone desires, when it does happen, people like Grace find the silver lining. “My experience has created opportunities for me to help others. We have millions of Americans who are currently living with Alzheimer's, and I want to make sure that their quality of life is the best it can possibly be while we work toward a cure.” Grace feels blessed to have the opportunity to do her research and advocacy work, saying these opportunities have allowed her to honor the dad and grandmother, two people Grace says “had the spirit of community engagement and volunteering in their blood.” 
Grace is an Alzheimer’s Association Congressional Ambassador and an advisory board member of the Louisiana Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. Read more about Grace’s story.

We celebrate all of our passionate advocates for their energy and their continued dedication in the fight to end Alzheimer’s. Learn more about the 2021 AIM Advocacy Forum May 19 event.

Walk to End Alzheimer’s co-chair Mike Duran 

Mike has been involved in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s for 22 years! Last year, his involvement pivoted. Soon after moving to Bakersfield, California, Mike took on the role of co-chair for the Bakersfield Walk.

Mike’s mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer's at the age of 43 and lost her brave battle with the disease in her early 50s. It was one day near the end of her journey when Mike saw a sign at a local mall about the Walk to End Alzheimer’s — then known as the Memory Walk — and knew he had to get involved. “That first Walk, I quickly got a team together and raised $1,500 for the cause, prior to my mom passing away the following June.”

Before they tied the knot, Mike told his soon-to-be wife, Tracy, that the fight to end Alzheimer’s was a huge part of his life, and that she would need to be on board. “Thankfully, she understood my passion,” Mike said. “It was something that actually attracted her to me more. We both work in the memory care field, and we both care about all the people that are affected by dementia.” 

In his decades of involvement, Mike has seen his Walk to End Alzheimer’s team grow to as large as 65 people, a testament to his efforts to raise awareness of the disease and the event throughout his community. “Not everyone is going through the same thing when facing Alzheimer’s — the outcomes and experiences will be different — but we all have similar situations we can face together,” he said. “It is an honor to volunteer for this cause and help let families like mine know that they aren’t alone in their fight.” Visit Mike's personal Walk to End Alzheimer's page.

Walk to End Alzheimer’s and The Longest Day

Every year, thousands of event volunteers and fundraisers have grown the impact of the Alzheimer’s cause through Alzheimer’s Association events The Longest Day and the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Read about a brother and sister living on separate coasts who fight to end Alzheimer’s together through The Longest Day, on behalf of their father, and the story of a Walk to End Alzheimer’s co-chair who is raising awareness in honor of her abuela for the 11th time this year.

We want to thank all of our event participants for their commitment to raising awareness and funds in the fight to end Alzheimer’s.

How do you volunteer your time, energy and passion? Tell us in the comments!


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