After a $8 million record-breaking 2019 The Longest Day, we bring you the story of one of our top fundraisers, Mark de Roo, whose team raised more than $90,000 in honor of his wife Roxanne.
Our lives are marked by milestone moments, experiences of great meaning and significance. You’ve had these. So have I. I’m Mark de Roo, and my wife was Roxanne de Roo.
October 12, 2014
It was a cold and windy day in Chicago. My two daughters and I trekked across the city catching brief glimpses of my 59-year-old wife, Roxanne, as she ran the Chicago Marathon. Roxanne was a lifelong walker and runner, but this was her first experience with a marathon. We were so proud of her. Her accomplishment completed a milestone of sorts for our family: All five of us had now completed a full marathon.
October 31, 2014
A mere 19 days after the marathon, our family accompanied Roxanne on another journey. This time, we were in a neurologist’s office at the University of Michigan. The doctor came in and announced, in no uncertain terms, “Roxanne, you have Alzheimer’s.”
The doctor’s words were disheartening. In another sense, they were clarifying. For several years, we knew something was amiss. We had gone to numerous specialists and clinics, always leaving with these parting remarks: “We’re not sure.” Finally, a PET scan confirmed what we dreaded.
On the drive home, we sat in silence. My mind wandered back to 19 days prior – the elation Roxanne experienced at finishing the race. And now here we were, faced with overwhelming sadness, fear and uncertainty of what awaited us. And the unspeakable thought of how much time we had left.
August 14, 1999
Let me take you back a bit further. On this date, now nearly 20 years ago, I had climbed to the summit of Mt. Whitney in California, the highest point in the lower 48 states. Upon reaching the summit, I met a climber who had climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro the year before. He described it as a “true mountaintop experience.”
I thought: “Wouldn’t be special for Rox and me to climb Kilimanjaro, demonstrating to the world that a person with early onset Alzheimer’s can do marvelous things?” We began putting plans in order.
Unfortunately, the disease had a different agenda. It progressed at an unforgiving rate – we were losing who Roxanne really was, trait by wonderful trait.
February 16, 2018
After an 11-year journey, my dear wife passed. Alzheimer’s had claimed the most creative, determined and beautiful person I have ever known. In the months following her passing, I occasionally thought of our plans to climb Africa’s highest mountain. I thought: “Why not climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in honor of her? What better way than to make this climb a fundraiser in the fight to end Alzheimer’s?”
June 21, 2019
On The Longest Day, three awesome friends gathered on the summit of a magnificent mountain, praising God for the life of Roxanne and her indomitable spirit. We have been fortunate to raise funds from all over the country from friends who loved Roxanne and continue to want to honor her.
When we summited the mountain, we didn’t stay long. The average temperature is a balmy 20 below. Yet, within our celebration were tears of joy, expressions of thanks for the hundreds of supporters and fond memories of Rox.
September 26, 2019
Today, I have one more assurance. Alzheimer’s WILL be defeated, and families will experience the vibrancy and shalom of life as the good Lord intended for everyone.
In Africa, there is a saying…“'If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Let’s keep going – together!
About Mark: Along with three friends – Steve Spoelhof and his son, Ben, and Doug Buma – Mark ascended Mt. Kilimanjaro for The Longest Day, raising more than $90,000. View their team page. Mark lives in Holland, Michigan.
Younger-onset (Early onset) Alzheimer's