Akum Dhillon is a senior at the Collegiate School in Richmond, Virginia and will be attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill this fall.
I fight to end Alzheimer’s for my paternal grandmother, who I call Mummy. It is because of her that I am pursuing a career in medicine as a neuroscientist, which became my life’s goal when I was 12 years old.
My family and I took care of Mummy at home for seven years. At the time, I didn’t fully comprehend what was happening, or what Alzheimer’s was. I was under the assumption that all older people lost their memory eventually. I thought it was a common phenomena.
When Mummy passed away in 2014, I saw my father cry for the first time, and I realized that her situation was not normal; people being unable to talk, to walk, to use the bathroom on their own — people not knowing who their family was, who they were, and at the end, their bodies not knowing how to breathe: none of it was normal.
In my sophomore year of high school, I reached out to the Alzheimer’s Association and asked how I could help. I didn’t want to wait 20 years before I became a practicing doctor before I could make a difference.
I began to plan my first fundraiser for the Association, a 3 versus 3 soccer tournament. My “3v3 for ALZ” tournaments have raised over $15,000. I garnered sponsorships from the likes of Subway, the Richmond Kickers and more. After the success of my first fundraiser, I was invited to be a part of The Longest Day committee, tasked with helping plan events and fundraisers in Richmond.
Since the stay-at-home order began during COVID-19, I moved my efforts to social media. I created an Instagram account to continue to raise funds online, and in four days, my account grew to over 1400 followers. I decided to use the power of social media because that is where most people of my generation spend their time. By creating a social media presence on sites such as Instagram, I could reach far more people than I previously had. I could grow my fundraisers outside of Richmond to people across the world!
Another platform a lot of people have been using since the shelter-in-place orders is the world of video games. By creating a variety of video game tournaments, I realized that anyone with a gaming console could participate and help raise funds in the fight to end Alzheimer’s. That, along with a small entry fee, means that even more people could participate while maintaining social distancing guidelines.
If we expand these video game tournaments to cities across the country, we can raise thousands of dollars for Alzheimer’s research, care and support. We can shine a light for those who are surrounded by the darkness of Alzheimer’s. Our efforts can be a beacon of hope for both people living with the disease and their caregivers so that no family has to go through the pain of being forgotten.
Let’s make this world a little brighter!
About: Visit Akum’s fundraising page for The Longest Day.