Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Walk to Remember

This Saturday marks a very meaningful day not only for me but for my mom as well. When I first moved to Chicago I immediately started looking for charitable causes I could become involved in. Cancer and Alzheimer's are two diseases that have hit incredibly close to home and I am fervent on helping raise funds for them. Seeing loved ones of mine affected by these diseases has inspired me and motivated me to DO something. When I knew I was moving to Chicago, the first thing I wanted to do was to join a few charity boards and start participating in fundraising events.

So after a few weeks into my new life in the city, I started researching fundraisers for Alzheimer's disease. When I saw the Alzheimer's Association's Chicago Memory Walk, I immediately contacted the chair and requested to join the planning committee. Within two weeks I was on the Memory Walk Sponsorship Committee in charge of obtaining corporate sponsors to participate in the event. This was an eye opening experience because I was able to see how much people truly care about funding this worthy cause.

Today more than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's destroys brain cells, causing memory loss and problems with thinking and behavior severe enough to affect work, lifelong hobbies or social life. Alzheimer’s gets worse over time, and it is fatal. Today it is the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States. Learn more.

Sadly, my beloved grandmother Rhoda passed away from Alzheimer's disease three years ago come this December. She was an incredible women. A women who I not only adored but idolized in every way. Rhoda was a women of strength, beauty, and grace. She was not my Grandma or Nana, she was simply "my Rhoda" which made her all the more special.

Rhoda was diagnosed with Alzheimer's when I was only 15. The first stages of Alzheimer's are hard to catch since they are sometimes mistaken for common signs of aging, and unfortunately it was too late when we caught Rhoda's signs. Alzheimer's is a degenerative disease and every year the disease would advance in her. Not a day goes by where I do not think of her and wish she was still here. I miss hearing her sing and dabble on the piano. I miss listening to her talk in her scottish accent and pinching my dapy every chance she got. I miss having my Rhoda sneak me a piece of her bundt cake even though we hadn't eaten dinner yet and playing dress up with her clothes and make up. The list is endless of the things I miss about her and I would give anything to have her back. Losing her to Alzheimer's was truly the longest goodbye I have ever had to experience.

In Memory of Rhoda I will be participating in my 3rd Annual Chicago Memory Walk. Every year I have raised nearly $1,000. I cannot even begin to explain how much I appreciate my friends and family who have donated to my walk throughout the years. With all the worthy causes there are that need help and support, I am incredibly lucky to have such charitable people in my life.

As I walk this Saturday with my mom, our 5k will be spent sharing favorite stories and memories of her. Remembering Rhoda all the while continuing my new tradition of walking to keep her fight going against Alzheimer's. Hopefully one day this disease will be preventable and/or stopped. Every step on Saturday will help make that happen. Here's to you Rhoda. Always and forever in my heart. xo

"May God bless you to live as long as you want to; and want to as long as you live!" ~Scottish proverb

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