Call our 24 hours, seven days a week helpline at 800.272.3900

24/7 Helpline 800.272.3900

My ‘Why’: Celebrating Our 2023 AIM Advocacy Forum Volunteer Honorees

My ‘Why’: Celebrating Our 2023 AIM Advocacy Forum Volunteer Honorees
Share or Print this page
Share or Print this page
April 21, 2023
Share or Print this page

Purple passion was on display at the 2023 Alzheimer's Impact Movement (AIM) Advocacy Forum, with nearly 900 volunteer advocates from across the nation imploring policymakers to advance policies to improve the lives of those affected by Alzheimer’s and other dementia. Here we celebrate this year’s outstanding winners of the Young Advocate, Alzheimer’s Congressional Team (ACT) and Advocate of the Year awards. 

And the Award Goes to…

2023 Young Advocate of the Year:
Angie Li, Ambassador to TX-16

Volunteer advocate Angie Li of El Paso, Texas, 18, incorporates Alzheimer’s awareness into everything she does! Her ‘Why’ for becoming an advocate is her grandfather, who developed vascular dementia, and then Alzheimer’s disease.

At Coronado High School in El Paso, Angie initiated an Alzheimer’s club, raising funds for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, hosting education sessions and mobilizing fellow students to volunteer at assisted living facilities. She’s also served as the lead volunteer for El Paso’s first in-person professional and family caregiver conference, "Navigating the Journey of Dementia Care."

Angie was instrumental in coordinating a Town Hall with Congresswoman Veronica Escobar (D-TX) to advance policies to improve the lives of people living with Alzheimer’s.

When she got to Washington, D.C. for the 2023 AIM Advocacy Forum, “I felt the rush of excitement as soon as I stepped into the Capitol,” Angie said. “Working alongside my fellow advocates and hearing their stories made me even more motivated to continue advocating for people living with Alzheimer's and their caregivers.”

Due to her experiences with Alzheimer’s disease, Angie has been inspired to pursue a career in health care. “I know we touched the hearts of government officials by telling our stories,” Angie said of her Advocacy Forum experience. “Being an advocate and Alzheimer’s Ambassador has taught me to be more compassionate, selfless and empathetic. I will continue to honor the mission of the Alzheimer’s Association in college and beyond.”

The AIM Young Advocate of the Year award is given to the top young advocate in the country based on engagement with their members of Congress and their dedication to the cause.

2023 ACT Team of the Year:
Mattye Pollard-Cole, Deb Wells and Robert Epper of CO-06

Mattye Pollard-Cole, a Colorado native, advocates in memory of her husband Cliff. Cliff died from Alzheimer’s in 2011 at age 62 after a diagnosis of younger-onset Alzheimer’s in 2004. “My ‘Why’ has always been Cliff, and I continue to advocate because of the many loved ones who are living with Alzheimer’s, and for the many friends I’ve lost to the disease,” Mattye shared. 

Mattye participated in her first Walk to End Alzheimer’s in 2005. Her team — Cliff’s Clan, in her husband’s honor — has raised more than $100,000. In 2012, the year after her beloved Cliff passed away, she became an Alzheimer’s Ambassador to engage her elected officials. She has been advocating ever since, first as an Ambassador to former Congressman Mike Coffman (R-CO), and since 2019 to Congressman Jason Crow (D-CO). 

As the team leader of Colorado CD-6, Mattye was energized by the rally for access to Alzheimer’s treatments, where advocates gathered in Washington, D.C. to demand CMS to cover the cost of FDA-approved treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. “Besides advocating for the coverage of Alzheimer’s drugs, I advocate for other legislation that will support my many friends battling Alzheimer’s, as well as the other 76,000 Coloradans with this disease,” Mattye said. “I’m hopeful that the House and Senate will approve an additional $321 million in FY 2024 for Alzheimer’s research at the NIH because of all of our work.”

Deb Wells, a Denver native, began her advocacy work in 2011 when Mattye invited her to attend meetings with then-Congressman Coffman. “My ‘Why’ for advocating for this cause is because there is still so much misunderstanding of the impact of Alzheimer's and other dementia,” Deb said. “I am inspired by my team and all the advocates who work with legislators to make a difference.”

During the past year, Deb has built strong relationships with Congressman Crow’s staff, notably, a member of the staff who attended the same high school as Deb. “It's through these connections and relationships that we can make real progress,” she said. “It's been a great realization of how the work we do through the Ambassador program can make an impact. This is a team effort!”

Robert Epper of Highlands Ranch, Colorado, has been an Alzheimer’s advocate since 2016. As part of the team representing the CO-06, he is committed to making a difference on behalf of all of his loved ones. “Alzheimer’s disease is on both sides of my own family. I’ve seen firsthand the devastating effect it has on everyone involved,” he said. 

Robert’s ‘Why’ is to both honor those he has lost, and to change the future for the next generation. Robert’s beloved father passed away in 2010 from complications related to Alzheimer's and he continues to be Robert’s main source of inspiration. “My father was a hardworking, outgoing man who taught me to relentlessly push for things that I believe in, and he is the reason I advocate for all of the people affected by Alzheimer’s and other dementia.”

Alzheimer’s Congressional Teams (ACTs) are groups of advocates committed to helping raise their elected officials’ awareness of and support for public policy related to Alzheimer’s disease. 

2023 AIM Advocate of the Year:
Jay Reinstein, Ambassador to NC-04

Jay Reinstein of North Carolina, our 2023 Advocate of the Year, may be living with younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease, but he has not let his diagnosis stop him from sharing his story. After receiving his diagnosis at age 57, Jay began his journey volunteering with the Alzheimer’s Association. Since then, Jay has taken on roles as an Alzheimer’s Ambassador and State Champion, a Walk to End Alzheimer’s team captain and a National Early-Stage Advisor

“When I retired, I had to fill a void in my life, and Alzheimer’s advocacy and spreading awareness brought me where I needed to be,” Jay said. “A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s still means that I can live my life well and continue to get joy out of everything I do.”

Jay’s ultimate ‘Why’ for getting involved is his understanding that there must be more support for those living with Alzheimer’s. Since 2022, Jay has increased his advocacy and outreach efforts to share how inability to access these treatments will impact him and his family. While the lack of coverage for FDA-approved Alzheimer’s treatments has been demoralizing, Jay has continued to educate the public and legislators on the importance of access and what it means for people living with Alzheimer’s.

“Whether I am advocating locally in North Carolina, or speaking with my representatives in D.C, I’m proud to make a difference and to fight for more time with my family and friends,” Jay shared. “When I see that Alzheimer’s is a priority for elected officials on both sides of the aisle, it gives me hope. It is a very good time for Alzheimer’s research, and we are moving in a positive direction. This progress wouldn't be possible without all of the advocates across the country. 

I advocate because it gives me a voice — which is key in reducing the stigma so many in the Alzheimer’s and dementia community face. That voice is critical.”

The AIM Advocate of the Year award is given to the top advocate in the country based on engagement with their members of Congress and their dedication to the cause.

Congratulations to our 2023 award winners! Become an Alzheimer’s Association advocate, learn more about the Alzheimer's Ambassador Program and find other volunteer opportunities with the Alzheimer’s Association.

Showing {{currentNumberOfComments}} of {{totalNumberOfComments}} Comments
Post a new comment

Keep Up With Alzheimer’s News and Events

The first survivor of Alzheimer's is out there, but we won't get there without you.

Donate Now

Learn how Alzheimer’s disease affects the brain.

Take the Brain Tour

Don't just hope for a cure. Help us find one.

Learn More