My name is Matt Cardinal. I am 38 years old and was born and raised in Decatur, Illinois. I currently live just outside of Decatur in Forsyth, Illinois. My wife’s name is Heidi and we have a daughter, Avery, and are currently looking to grow our family through adoption. I am the Radiography Program Director at Richland Community College in Decatur, Illinois. I have been in this position for nearly 5 years. The previous 6 years I worked at St. Mary’s Hospital in Decatur as a Radiographer. I graduated from the same radiography program in 2005 and went on to earn a Bachelor’s degree at Millikin University and a master’s degree from the University of Illinois. I am an avid sports fan and the majority of my hobbies revolve around sports.
What led to your involvement with the Alzheimer’s Association?
In 2004 my father was diagnosed with dementia with Lewy Bodies. Over the 9 years leading up to his passing in 2013, we saw his mental health deteriorate. His autopsy report indicated he in fact had Alzheimer’s, and no presence of Lewy Bodies. I had never heard of Lewy bodies, but was familiar of Alzheimer’s. Once we got that news the scare of it possibly being genetic worried me. It took me a couple years to really come to terms that I needed to be involved with this organization; that and selfish reasons to help find a cure or even a mechanism to slow down the process for a loved one or myself. I was directed to get involved by a colleague who had been a volunteer with the association for a couple years. She is a nursing instructor and used her students to help volunteer for the Walk in Decatur as part of their community service requirement. So in 2015, for the first time I got involved. In my first year I wanted to just follow the lead of others, but ended up being very involved in a pseudo sponsorship chair role. I enjoyed getting different sponsors for the walk. I also volunteered at a few other fundraisers and advertisement campaigns to spread the word about Decatur’s walk for Alzheimer’s. I have no idea how many hours I volunteered in that first year, that wasn’t anything I even thought about tracking. I tried to be as involved as I could and do anything asked of me.
What are some of your responsibilities as the Decatur Walk Committee Chair?
This year I was asked to take on the role of Decatur Walk Committee Chair. I have to admit the thought of taking on that much responsibility after only volunteering one year was intimidating. Ultimately I said I would, and now I find myself even more passionate about helping any way I can to raise awareness and funds to help people much smarter than I help those affected by the disease. In the position, which is just beginning, I work closely with the co-chair and the Alzheimer’s Association staff partner. Together the three of us plan each event, including a volunteer kickoff where we assemble a team (the full committee) of like individuals looking to put an end to Alzheimer’s. Once we have the committee assembled I will look to delegate to various volunteer chairs certain tasks, I will offer them support and resources and a helping hand in the completion of those tasks. I also plan to serve as a leader and let my passion and story provide the inspiration to others to really put forth the effort to raise awareness by putting on one of the biggest most profitable Walks in the state if not country.
Why the Alzheimer’s Association?
I wanted to align with a charitable organization to be a better role model for my students and my child(ren). The Alzheimer’s Association was an easy choice for me for various personal reasons.
Why should others volunteer with the Alzheimer’s Association?
I would recommend anyone who has a passion to help others to volunteer for your local Alzheimer’s Association. People living with Alzheimer’s and other dementia, and the families who support them are in real need of help. The one stat I go to try to get others to see how important it is to get involved is: Alzheimer’s is currently the only top 10 (currently 6th killer) in the USA that cannot be prevented, slowed or stopped. I also tell them I truly hope that they never have to deal with the disease through a loved one, but at the rate it is growing that is becoming increasingly unlikely. I got involved for several reasons, but my dad was the main reason. I hope people get involved so they don’t end up with a similar reason later.