Tonight, we close The Longest Day with a sunset ceremony on Emerald Isle beach. Five years ago, it was exciting to start a new event in my own backyard of North Carolina for The Longest Day.
I am part of EI Sea Turtle Patrol with the local Sea Turtle Sanctuary. Every day from May 1 to August 31, someone from my group walks one mile of the beach looking for baby turtle tracks. The turtle moms will lay eggs on the beach, and by morning, there are tracks to be seen.
Once tracks have been identified and my group confirms that there are turtle eggs present, we begin to “nest sit” 50 days later. We monitor the nests we find so that they can hatch naturally, protected from crowds of people. It has been an education and a joy, and I have been very blessed to see many nest hatchlings. It’s an incredible experience each time.
Do you know what is also incredible? Realizing that my Longest Day team has raised nearly $35,000 over the past five years participating in this event! Today, my team made visible tracks for the sixth time, much like the turtles that come to this beach, so that the next generation will never experience the devastating effects of this disease.
My step-grandfather was the first person I lost to Alzheimer’s disease. That experience informed my decision to pursue my nursing career. I worked in geriatrics before my family started being affected even further. My daughter's great-aunt and her grandmother on her father’s side both died from the disease. Today, my dad has vascular dementia. I know that the one thing I can do to help my family and other families is raise funds and awareness on The Longest Day.
Closing our day, we are personalizing bags in honor of someone living with Alzheimer’s or who has been lost to the disease, hanging the bags on shepherd’s hooks. Soon, one of our team members will recite a poem and then we will open up the floor to anyone who wants to talk about their Alzheimer's experience.
Today we have demonstrated our hope for a world without Alzheimer’s, this disease that steals our loved ones. What started out six years ago as a small, passionate group walking down the beach with an #ENDALZ flag has become an event where team members are walking continuously from sunrise to sunset down the 13-mile beach, from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. In true relay fashion, we walk two miles per person, proudly handing off the #ENDALZ flag to the next team member.
Today has become a celebration of love, life and our fondest memories. Today, the day with the most light, we know we have made a difference in the fight to end Alzheimer’s.
About Susan: Susan is an active volunteer with the Alzheimer's Association. Visit her team page.