My name is KJ, short for Kimberly Jean. I am named after one of the most important people in my life: Donna Jean, my grandmother. In 2017, I started my Walk to End Alzheimer’s team “Do It for Donna” in her honor.
I was born to a teenage mother who was not really ready to take care of me. Luckily, I was able to spend a lot of time with my grandparents. I looked so much like my grandma that people often mistook us for mother and daughter.
Grandma Donna was always there for me. She loved me unconditionally, and we had the most special bond. It was because of how special our bond was that made her forgetting me before she forgot anyone else in her life that much more painful.
Alzheimer's affects individuals differently. Alzheimer's hit my grandma hard and quick. Grandma kept going farther back in time until she became almost like an infant again. The roles we once had reversed and instead of her taking care of me, I was taking care of her.
Like most people who lived during the John F. Kennedy assassination or 9/11[EY1] , I know exactly where I was when I realized that my grandma didn't know who I was anymore. ‘Devastation’ doesn't even begin to describe how it feels to be forgotten by someone you love so dearly. My dear grandma passed away from Alzheimer's on September 1, 2010.
Grandma and I loved to craft together and creating handmade items was how she showed her love to others. I decided to follow her example and craft to fundraise for Walk to End Alzheimer’s. I create purple earrings, lapel pins and scarves that help spread awareness in her honor. I am all about purple all of the time!
After Grandma passed away, it took me awhile before deciding to participate in Walk to End Alzheimer’s. I wasn’t sure about fundraising, but I am so glad I decided to stop worrying about it and that I just went for it. The Alzheimer’s Association gets genuinely excited about every dollar raised and they have lots of ideas and resources to help everyone reach their fundraising goal.
Today, the Association staff and other walkers now feel like family to me. We are all working toward the same goal: the first survivor of Alzheimer’s, and a world without Alzheimer's and other dementias.
Walking helps soothe my grief. Walk to End Alzheimer’s gives me hope and a purpose. I knew I had to do it for Donna. This is why I walk.