With ALZ my Heart
"Having a recognized purpose in life, instills you with the drive to pursue and accomplish things. The benefit is living life, not just existing." - Brian
What a great day! It was beautiful weather all day, maybe a little on the warm side in the afternoon. This was my first Alzheimer's fundraising event. I had just found out about it mid to late summer and immediately signed up to volunteer. I jumped in all the way and volunteered to be there in the early morning for setup. I think that was at 6:am. The local alz.org office employees had setup the heavy stuff like tents and tables the night before, so us volunteers worked on all the 'final setup' stuff. It was fun and I was able to meet new friends... some amazing people!
Right after I had written the article below this, I had called the local alz.org office to see if they could use it for any of their social media outlets. During that call Jacob (Director of the Event) asked me if I would be interested in being on stage for the opening ceremony representing one of the four groups of the promise garden. I said sure, not knowing what that really was at the time. I love to speak publicly and thought maybe since I was going to be onstage I would be telling my story. I am really glad that didn't happen and you'll see why in a bit.
The promise garden has to do with all those plastic spinning flowers you see people carrying at the Walk. There are four colors, each representing a different reason you are at the Walk. Orange is for people that know someone with Alzheimer's and or support the cause. Yellow is for someone who is currently caring for someone with Alzheimer's. Purple is for someone who has lost someone to Alzheimer's. And Blue, my flower, is for people who have Alzheimer's. The flowers serve many purposes, but the one important to me was being able to easily identify who else had Alzheimer's.
While on stage waiting, I found out that they were going to have someone read each of our bio's based on a phone interview I had done a couple weeks earlier. So I was really curious how that was going to turn out. So we are on this HUGE stage facing a few thousand people who are all standing and listening. I think mine was the last of the four bio's to be read. As She begins to read my bio, it all hits home but in a surreal way... am I really on stage because I have Alzheimer's? Less than a year ago I barely knew what that even was, now my identity with all these people is as a young guy with Alzheimer's. A guy who will soon lose all his faculties and have other people taking care of him. This wasn't how my life was supposed to go. I was overwhelmed with emotion. When the lady had finished reading, my Fiance' told me there wasn't a dry eye to be seen. I know mine were not dry. I would not have been able to read my own bio... no way. It was all I could do not to sob right there on stage. Fortunately the person next to me on stage gave me a long hug.
I was very fortunate to meet young man named Brian Van Buren, who also has early-onset AD. Brian whisked me off stage to meet a beautiful young lady who leads one of the local early-onset AD support groups. After that I was able to catch up with my personal support group and Team members of WithAlzMyHeart who consist of my family and a couple friends from our neighborhood. Along with the thousands in attendance we went on the Walk. My family made us take the LONG route. So many nice people in one place was amazing. We had my Great Dane Recon with us so that mad it even more fun for everyone.
I will never miss an Alzheimer's fundraiser in the future. It is like a huge family reunion where you all have something in common although you haven't met everyone yet. It was amazing. I strongly urge you to participate, not to get your money, but for you to experience something truly wonderful. Humanity has a good side and you will find it here in abundance.