Why I Walk with Gino Colombara

19 Sep

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I am Gino Colombara and I have had the honor to be the Executive Director of the Alzheimer’s Association Southeastern Virginia Chapter for the past 23 years. I walk each year for a very personal reason.

My journey with Alzheimer’s started over 30 years ago. It began with my father, John Colombara. While I was in the Navy stationed in Italy, he was living in Florida. I would call him every Sunday. One Sunday, he did not answer the phone. The same held true for Monday. I contacted the apartment manager to check on him. Apparently, neighbors saw my father leave with two suitcases in hand.

My father, who spent most of his adult life in New York, decided to head back home. He traveled by bus and train. He was missing for two months. I had a detective looking for him. This was the worst time of my life.

My father reached New York where he got mugged. He was brought to Bellevue Hospital without any identification. My father did not provide his real name and did not share that he had any family.

So how did I find him? He got on a pay phone in the hospital and called his bank in New York to get his pension check. I had contacted the bank earlier to request that if he should call to please contact the Red Cross.

At 2:00 one morning, military security officers came to my home in Italy and shared that my father was found. I immediately called him at the hospital. When I spoke with him, it was like nothing ever happened. By 8:00 that morning, I was on a flight to New York. And so began my Alzheimer’s journey in 1986. And so began my advocacy to make a difference.

Initially, my Alzheimer’s journey was extremely lonely. There was not much awareness of Alzheimer’s at that time. In fact, my father did not get a formal diagnosis of Alzheimer’s until 1989. My father passed away in 1993.

The tide has certainly changed since then. I feel proud to be part of that changing tide.

30 years ago…I could not imagine a day when everyone who needs care and support gets it as a result of our work…Today I can.

30 years ago…I could not imagine a day when research is funded at the proper level… Today I can.

30 years ago…I could not imagine a day when stigma would be eliminated… Today I can.

And 30 years ago, I could not imagine the day when everyone survives – the day our vision is realized. Today I can.

The Walk to End Alzheimer’s is one of the ways I pay tribute to my father. I hope you will join me at one of our walks. I look forward to seeing you!

Gino Colombara, Executive Director
Alzheimer’s Association – Southeastern Virginia Chapter

Join Gino at alz.org/walk!

Why I Walk with Sheila Mayes

12 Sep

Why I Walk

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I have been a nurse since 1991. Many of those years as a nurse have been spent working with people who have dementia. It is both challenging and rewarding. I love it! Those people are part of the reason why I walk.

However, the biggest reason is that my paternal grandmother had Alzheimer’s disease before she died. We were fortunate that because she had two wonderful children, my father, and my aunt, along with my stepmother and some hired help, she was able to stay at home for the entire duration of the disease.

My grandmother was pleasantly confused. She loved to joke and laugh. Even on her “bad” days, she made light of it with a joke.

I remember my grandmother as a pure “joy” to be around. Growing up, that’s exactly what we called her. Joy. Her name was Josephine and most people called her “Jo”, but to her grandchildren, she was simply Joy.

Near the end, she could not remember my name. She called my daughter “that girl” when asking about her. Her memories slowly faded and she became more and more confused before she died. I felt as if I had been robbed of my grandmother long before she passed away.

Alzheimer’s is a horrific disease and I love walking to raise money for the cause, hoping that someday we will find a prevention or a cure and be able to provide education so that loved ones will be prepared to cope with the challenges they will face.

Alzheimer’s disease is growing in numbers because people are living longer and their bodies are healthier. It will affect all of us in some way at some time. Please join me in walking to End Alzheimer’s.

Sheila Mayes

Join Sheila at alz.org/walk

Why I Walk with Sheila Craze

5 Sep

WHY I WALK WITH SHEILA CRAZE – HONORING HER DAD DAVID CRAZE

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This is my Dad and my hero, David A. Craze.  On June 12th, 2017 he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.  A day will come that he will forget that I’m his favorite kid and that he’s even my Dad.  No one should have to stand by and watch this disease take their family and friends from them.  So my family’s not standing by. We have joined the Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Virginia Beach. I have taken a step further and joined the walk planning committee to help increase outreach and awareness of this horrible disease.

Please join Team Craze in our fight and if you are able, make a donation to advance the care, support and research efforts of the Alzheimer’s Association.

Sheila Craze
Team Craze – CoVA Walk
Join Sheila at alz.org/walk

 

Why I Walk with Beverly Covey

29 Aug

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I am walking for my Dad who is coping the best he can with this disease and my mother Donna Covey who is his caregiver. They live in Elkins, West Virginia and I love him bunches!!! I can’t cure him but I sure can ask for donations to help find one. I hope you will consider contributing to my efforts to raise money. You can make a difference!

Beverly Covey
CoVA Walk to End Alzheimer’s®
Join Beverly at alz.org/walk

 

Why I Walk with Melissa Minkowski

8 Aug

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My dad was diagnosed with Early-Onset Alzheimer’s at the age of 55. My grandma Elsie (my dad’s mom) passed from Alzheimer’s. Oh, what I would’ve given to know then what I know now…

Now, my husband and I are now going through different forms of dementia with his parents. To see 3 of your 4 parental figures in your life go through dementia or Alzheimer’s is something that I’ve come to see as a sign to get involved, to spread the word, spread awareness, to get educated, to help others, to support others with whatever knowledge I pick up from the experiences that I’ve seen or endured. No one prepares you for what you have to do or see when you have to take care of your parents.

This walk is to honor not only my Dad, but my Mom who is amazing and loving and supports my dad and myself every day. This is also for our family/friends (because our friends are our family) that love him near and far. And it’s for those that are going through similar heartache and loss. I hope to help those that are new to this shift in “normal”. And to help everyone know that we are all together in this.

Please take the time to help educate, donate to research and development, walk with us or simply share this with your friends and family. Every little bit counts.

MELISSA MINKOWSKI
TEAM CAPTAIN OF WILLIE’S WALKERS
COASTAL VIRGINIA WALK

August Volunteer of the Month: Deborah Jordal

6 Aug

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Congratulations to our August Volunteer of the Month, Deborah Jordal! Deborah first connected with our Chapter in the late 90’s while doing a personal study about what would make life better for residents of assisted living facilities. Since then, she became a support group facilitator and later helped the chapter launch ArtMatters, an early stage engagement program. Deborah is a dedicated volunteer with the Alzheimer’s Association because she wants to help families navigate the difficulties of an Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis.

Deborah has lived a life of volunteerism and has always had an interest in helping those with dementia and Alzheimer’s. In her teens, she worked and taught early education programs at the Jewish Community Center and explored dementia-related diseases and programs. Later on, she worked with Assisted Living Facilities to try to improve daily life for residents with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Deborah spent a lot of time on the road, speaking at conferences and visiting facilities. She first volunteered with the Chapter as a facilitator for our caregiver support groups. She is now in the process of training to become a facilitator again after a few years away.

When Katie McDonough, the Chapter’s Director of Programs Public Policy, wanted to launch the ArtMatters program, she reached out to Deborah who studied art at the Virginia Commonwealth College of Art and Design. Together, Deborah and Katie launched the highly successful program. Meeting monthly at two locations in southeastern Virginia, ArtMatters has helped caregivers and their early-stage partners engage with one another. Deborah especially likes the ArtMatters program as it helps caregivers who are often overlooked and frustrated find the resources and engagement that they need.

When Deborah is not volunteering she likes to spend time with her husband Edward of 26 years and teenage daughter Ana. While Deborah has a background in psychology and art, she is now in the process of pursuing a Life Counseling Masters at Regent University. Deborah wants to continue to work to break down a bias towards aging, especially for young people.

We are so fortunate to have Deborah as a dedicated volunteer with our Chapter! To learn more about how you can volunteer, please visit our website at
https://www.alz.org/seva/in_my_community_104988.asp

Why I Walk with Faith Belote

1 Aug

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I walk to honor my father’s memory and my mother’s steadfast love and devotion as his caregiver over a ten-year journey. This couple worked hard and saved for retirement but the travel and relaxation were not as anticipated. An Alzheimer’s diagnosis stole those precious years. This long battle day by day took its toll on my mother until we convinced her that her health was just as important and placed my dad in memory care during the last two years. His death was bittersweet and I do miss him. Even towards the end, his gentle personality showed through the disease.

I walk because I want to see a cure in my lifetime. I want my children and the next generation to be free from Alzheimer’s disease. The health of our nation will be dramatically improved. To make progress, it must be a team effort. Therefore walking with my team and my community is important to the cause and helps to provide hope for the future.

Faith Belote