I distinctly remember the last conversation I had with my grandmother in 1990. It was shortly before her death, though I did not know that was imminent at the time. I just remember the overwhelming sadness I felt from knowing that she did not know she was speaking to me. But her sister, who was with her at the time, said to me at her funeral the words that have stayed with me all these years: “She may not have known it was you, but she knew she was talking to someone who loved her very much.”
Ten years later I had the opportunity to join the Alzheimer's Association. I was hired to lead a chapter that desperately needed to grow to meet the needs of the community in addressing this disease. At the time we had a staff of six. Eighteen years later we have 20 staff members working out of four offices serving 66 counties in Missouri and Kansas. Throughout my tenure with the Association, I am most proud of the team I have hired over the years, the creation of new office space to serve the community, and the expanded awareness we have achieved and service we have provided. We grew from offering a handful of programs to providing more than 100 educational classes, support groups, and social engagement programs. Back then we saw few families in our office, while today we provide care consultations to more than 1400 families each year. More than 100,000 people accessed our website for information last year, and our advocacy efforts have contributed to historic advances in care and funding for research.
In these same years of phenomenal growth and success for our Chapter and our Association, I faced Alzheimer's on a very personal level – over and over again. I have lost my grandfather, cousin, mother-in-law and, most recently, my mother to Alzheimer's. Every year as we prepare for our signature event, Walk to End Alzheimer's, I hear her voice asking how she can help. I look at my daughter – with her grandmother’s compassion and desire to help others – and am more committed than ever to working to ensure an end to this dreadful disease before it devastates yet another generation.
Each day I feel as if I am honoring my mother and grandmother as I walk into our office, and I am also enormously honored to work with such a talented and dedicated staff. I hope that you will let us help you if you are in any way affected by Alzheimer’s. Please call upon any of us at any time.