Unless your family has been personally touched by Alzheimer’s disease, it’s typically not a popular topic of conversation among college-age students. Jessica Woodhead is an exception.
A junior at the University of Colorado-Boulder, Jessica has found a second family among the individuals with Alzheimer’s disease for whom she has been providing care over the past two years at Sunrise Senior Living in Boulder. And she’s found some kindred spirits among the student body at CU.
Late in 2019, Jessica’s work with older adults inspired her to connect with the Alzheimer’s Association office in Boulder. That initial meeting led her to be trained as a community educator, and to volunteer for the 2020 Walk to End Alzheimer’s committee for Boulder.
“Jessica is a rare individual,” said Ralph Patrick, director of the Alzheimer’s Association Boulder regional office. "She recognizes that this disease has implications for people of all ages, and that it is incumbent on younger people to be engaged."
Before long, Jessica created the CU Against Alzheimer’s Club with a few friends, but she maintained lingering doubts about whether college-age students would find it relevant or interesting. She was in for a pleasant surprise.
A welcome audience among CU students
“Once we established it, I was surprised by the number of college kids who messaged our club privately saying how they had been affected by Alzheimer's, most often with grandparents who had the disease, and were so excited that we were starting the club,” Jessica said.
Even among students with no family connection to the disease, there has been a positive reaction.
“Once they know about it and are given the opportunity, many of them are eager to help, especially those majoring in science-related fields,” she said.
In the past few weeks, Jessica and her team started an Instagram page for the club which has already attracted about 200 followers.
The next step will be taking the CU Against Alzheimer’s Club on the road – literally. To support the cause and raise funds to find a cure for the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S., Jessica and her club will participate in the Boulder Walk to End Alzheimer’s. With the support of their families, friends, and fellow members, the club has already raised $3,500 this summer.
“This year, my team and I will be socially-distanced walking, hopefully on the trail behind my house in Genesee, because it's absolutely gorgeous up here,” she said. “While I can imagine how awesome it is to find solace and safety in a community of those all dedicated to finding a world without Alzheimer's at the annual walk in Boulder, what I love about the walk this year is the emphasis on doing it with those you love – your team, your family and your friends.”
The Boulder Walk to End Alzheimer’s will be held Saturday, Sept. 12. This year, to ensure health and safety, participants will walk through their communities individually and in small groups on paths and trails. To register for or donate to the Boulder Walk, go to alz.org/walk
. To join Jessica’s CU Against Alzheimer’s Club team or make a donation, click here
The Alzheimer's Association leads the way to end Alzheimer's and all other dementia — by accelerating global research, driving risk reduction and early detection, and maximizing quality care and support. Our vision is a world without Alzheimer's and all other dementia.™ For more information, visit www.alz.org or call the 24/7 Helpline at 800.272.3900.