My father started showing symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease when I was in high school and was formally diagnosed when I was in college. I started my Walk to End Alzheimer’s team in his memory, as he ultimately passed away from the disease in 2009.
In my experience, Alzheimer’s is a disease that people don’t really talk about until it affects them personally. It’s not on the radar for most people my age, and that’s why I walk to raise awareness.
I think a common misconception of Alzheimer’s is that you get old and the disease makes you forgetful. If you forget a few things when you’re older, it’s no big deal, right? In reality, Alzheimer’s is so much more than forgetfulness.
Alzheimer’s is behavioral changes and paranoia. It’s watching someone you love physically decline and lose every piece of themselves.
Alzheimer’s stole so much of my time with my dad. He was 60 years old when I was born and I was 26 when he died. Without Alzheimer’s, we could have had 26 great years together. Instead, we lost almost half of that time to the disease.
When I graduated from college, my dad didn’t get to be excited or proud. He was irritated and confused because he was in an unfamiliar place with a lot of noise.
I couldn’t ask him for advice when I started my first job or when I bought my first home.
I missed out on getting to know my dad as an adult – and him getting to know me.
That is why I walk – for all of the memories I wish I didn’t have of what this disease did to him, all of the memories I didn’t get to make … and all of the memories that he forgot.
Our Walk to End Alzheimer’s team, Bidwell’s Brigade, has raised thousands of dollars for the Alzheimer’s Association since 2015. We love fundraising and spreading awareness, but we’re all about having fun while we do it. We’ve had scavenger hunts, shopping fundraisers, college football parties, a Zumba class, a game night and an ice cream fundraiser. We’ve had so much support from so many amazing people. And as you can see, we’re all about that purple!
One of the things that I love about the Alzheimer’s Association is how supportive and appreciative their staff is of all of our work. They call to check in with team captains, they offer to help with fundraising, and their passion for this cause is unmatched. We may not be one of the top fundraising teams, but you would never know it. They’re excited whether your team has raised $5.00 or $50,000. It is one of the best organizations I have ever been involved with and I hope to be a team captain for as long as they need me!
The Walk to End Alzheimer’s gives me hope. One day there may finally be a cure for Alzheimer’s and we will have walked to end it. And as much as I love the event, I hope that someday I won’t have to do it anymore.
Until then, I think it’s important to support The Alzheimer’s Association and the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Not only is the Association fighting for the first survivor of Alzheimer’s, they do so much to support people living with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. And let’s give a quick shout out to the caregivers; nobody truly appreciates what you do until they’ve had to do it themselves!
About the Author: Leanna Bidwell is team captain of Bidwell’s Brigade. Her team has been participating in the Columbus, Ohio Walk to End Alzheimer’s since 2015.
Walk to End Alzheimer’s