Wendy, husband Frank and her team fight to end Alzheimer's as part of The Longest Day team The Purple Canoe.
Some people fall into adventure by chance, and the last few years have taken me into uncharted waters. It has been an unimaginable path with heartache and sweet, humble joys. Today, it is the JOY that moves me forward. I have realized that passion and purpose, together, can lead to infinite possibilities.
In fall of 2020, I had been thinking of my mother, contemplating how I could best honor her memory. Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia have unfortunately been a big part of my family's lives. My mother lost her sister to early-onset Alzheimer’s in the early 90’s. From that point on, mom became a regular supporter of the Alzheimer’s Association. Then, in 2016, Mom received her own Alzheimer's diagnosis.
After both of my parents passed, I became active with the Alzheimer’s Association, taking the first steps on my journey into the world of Alzheimer’s advocacy. There still remained a desire to do something that tapped into a passion already in my soul. That is how I first got involved in The Longest Day.
The Bucket List
Over the years, I had been working on a bucket list, taking mine and my husband’s love of paddling and visiting all 50 states. We had great paddles across the United States, from kayaking amongst the houseboats near San Francisco to whitewater rafting in the mountains of North Carolina, and spending countless hours on the Minnesota-Canadian border. We were well on our way to reaching the 50-state goal, but it became clear, as I was thinking about my mom,that I needed to reboot the bucket list and start afresh with a mission in mind. That mission included a canoe, and the color purple!
While in the brainstorming phase for The Purple Canoe, incorporating The Longest Day became a perfect fit. What could be more appropriate than launching a canoe on the summer solstice, June 21?! It was exciting to think that we could pursue a lifelong passion while raising funds and awareness for a cause that meant so much to us. Giving others the opportunity to support the Alzheimer’s Association and the incredible work that they do became an integral part of the plan.
Setting Afloat for Family
On June 21, 2021, The Longest Day, we officially launched The Purple Canoe at a lake near my childhood home. My vision for the day was filled with boats of all kinds, purple covering the landscape and people enjoying a beautiful day. We planned a picnic beach party with friends and family to celebrate the start of the adventure!
As people who have been impacted by Alzheimer’s know all too well, one learns to expect and embrace the unexpected. You learn that humor is often your very best friend. Our truly sunny day of launch came with near gale force winds blowing straight into the beach! I watched a colorful purple balloon arch deconstruct balloon by balloon, the pavilion draped in purple. Yet kayaks and canoes stayed securely strapped to cartops, and spirits stayed high. With smiles and laughter, The Purple Canoe forged ahead. Shoes came off, pant cuffs were rolled up, and we launched with friends and family cheering through the strong winds. We were off!
Over the last months, our paddle trips have taken us to 13 states, raising nearly $6,000 in the fight to end Alzheimer’s, and counting. This June is shaping up with paddles planned across the country, opportunities to hear from so many others affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia, whether around a campfire or at a gas pump.
Through our advocacy work with the Alzheimer’s Association and involvement in The Longest Day, we have found that people impacted by Alzheimer's and other dementia often simply need an outlet to share their experiences. Whether it is the voice of a caregiver, or a person living with Alzheimer’s or another dementia, there are countless stories that need to be told. The Purple Canoe opens the door, and opens hearts.
Through all of my experiences with Alzheimer’s and dementia, there were so many things to be grateful for. We were fortunate to have wonderful caregivers, and my parents also had each other, and their steadfast love. My mother never lost her sweet gracious nature and her radiant smile was ever-present. That smile stays in my heart each and every day.
My husband and I are grateful to have been able to take our passion and given it a deeper, more meaningful purpose. Through this adventure, we are finding we are enriched far more than we ever could have imagined. Come and paddle with us!
Visit Wendy and The Purple Canoe’s team fundraising page, and see where they are paddling next by visiting their website