About a decade ago, Michelle Webb was working in a long-term care facility, and found herself connecting with many of her residents who were living with dementia and their families. So she decided to learn more about the disease that was stealing their memories.
She turned to the Alzheimer’s Association’s online resources to learn more about dementia in all of its forms, including information on the different types of dementia, the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia, and the stages that individuals living with the disease go through.
“I wanted to ensure that people who are living with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers and family members have access to resources,” Michelle says. “It’s so important to know what’s out there, and I was so surprised by how many people weren’t aware of the services the Alzheimer’s Association provides.”
For years, Michelle continued working in the long-term care facility, and became one of their national trainers for dementia care. When she left the company in the mid 2000s to switch career paths and become an educator, Michelle wasn’t ready to leave behind her passion for raising awareness for Alzheimer’s. So she became a volunteer for the Alzheimer’s Association in North Carolina.
“Raising awareness and fighting to end of Alzheimer’s has been my one constant,” Michelle says. “You don’t have to know someone who has been affected by dementia to be an advocate for them. You just have to know that something is right, and fighting for people who may not be able to fight for themselves is the right thing to do.”
Michelle took on many volunteer opportunities with the chapter in North Carolina, including being a community educator, an advocate attending Advocacy Forum in Washington, D.C. on behalf of North Carolina, and a volunteer for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s.
Last year, while volunteering at a Walk to End Alzheimer’s event Michelle was stationed near an Alzheimer’s Association booth that was promoting for The Longest Day, a do-it-yourself fundraiser that takes place around the summer solstice.
Through the booth, she learned that the fundraiser was all about turning your passion into a purpose, and people had come up with creative ideas like cycling events, selling food, and sporting events.
“I was really drawn to the diversity of events,” Michelle says. “I love that you can take something that’s important to you and turn it into a fundraiser.”
A few years back, Michelle had lost her mom, who was also a big supporter of her work with the Alzheimer’s Association, and immediately upon learning about The Longest Day, she knew she wanted to host a fundraiser in her mom’s honor. So she held a party at her dad’s house on the summer solstice, which also happened to be her mom’s birthday.
“My parents loved to entertain,” Michelle says. “They were always hosting something, and I decided to turn their passion for that into a way to honor my mom.”
During the party, Michelle held an educational session about Alzheimer’s, and then had catered food, as well as set up donation boxes in the dining room, as well as a computer where people could donate electronically to her fundraising page for The Longest Day. In total, she raised $1,855. But for Michelle, it wasn’t only about raising money to advance the care and support services of the Alzheimer’s Association, as well as fund research efforts. It was about raising awareness, and just having people talking about the disease.
“It sparked a lot of conversation,” Michelle says. “It started as a testament to my mother, but it morphed into so much more than that, to the point where I was sitting there educating people and having them educate me on Alzheimer’s, and everyone was sharing their stories. I think it’s important for people to be cognizant of their connection to Alzheimer’s, because we all have more connections than we think.”
This year, Michelle is hosting her party for the second year in a row, and she is planning on adding a silent auction where local businesses donate items to increase the amount of funds she has raised. Michelle is also serving as The Longest Day 2020 Committee Chair, acting as the volunteer leader for the strategy and execution of The Longest Day, helping to recruit an effective Volunteer Committee focused on raising revenue, engaging more leaders, increasing awareness and promoting The Longest Day.
For Michelle, she doesn’t imagine a world where she doesn’t volunteer to help those affected by Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia, and will continue to volunteer until a cure is found.
“You don’t have to have a personal connection to care about Alzheimer’s,” Michelle says. “You just have to have a heart.”
Join Michelle in turing a passion into a legacy. The Longest Day 2020 will take leading up to and culminating on the summer solstice, June 20. Registration is now open! Turn your passion into purpose and start a fundraiser to fight Alzheimer’s disease. Learn more at alz.org/tld.
About the Alzheimer’s Association The Longest Day
The Longest Day is the day with the most light — the summer solstice. Thousands of participants from across the world come together to fight the darkness of Alzheimer’s through an activity of their choice. Together, they use their creativity and passion to raise funds and awareness for the care, support and research efforts of the Alzheimer’s Association.