Last June, Tim Snider hopped on his bicycle and rode 127 miles through Guilford County. It was the longest ride he’d ever completed in his life.
But it wasn’t just a normal day of cycling for him. It was an event to honor his mom, Tamra, who had been diagnosed with dementia in 2014.
“I was doing it for mom,” Tim says. “To help her and others facing dementia so that hopefully somebody down the road will not have to go through what I’ve gone through.”
Tamra had two master’s degrees and taught elementary school education in Forsyth county for more than 25 years. When Tim and his dad first began noticing signs of Tamra’s cognitive decline, she would deny that anything was wrong, and Tim says that she became “combative,” a personality trait that she had never exhibited before. But over the journey, Tamra became more and more confused and withdrawn, and the former elementary school teacher would remove herself from social situations.
“At least with a sudden death, it’s exactly that… sudden, but with this, you’re dragged through the mud, or feeling like you’re being dragged behind the car, and you want to help but you can’t. It’s a very helpless feeling to watch somebody deteriorate like that.”
It was hard to carry on a conversation with his mother. But she still enjoyed music. Her favorite Christmas album was the Carpenters “Christmas Portrait”. So he spent time with her listening and singing. He treasured those rare opportunities to connect.
Just weeks before Tim clipped in on his road bike, he and his dad had transferred Tamra into a memory care facility after she fell at her home and couldn’t get up without medical assistance. Tim’s dad had been his mother’s loving and dedicated caregiver for 10 years
“It was one of the hardest things Dad and I have ever done in our lives,” Tim says. “It was heart wrenching to watch her go through that. Alzheimer’s is a very very long goodbye. It’s like walking through a dark cave that continues to get narrower and narrower and it’s so emotionally painful.”
But Tim quickly realized that he and his father didn’t have to be alone in the pain they were feeling. One day, while looking for resources and ways to support both of his parents, Tim stumbled upon the Alzheimer’s Association’s online resources to learn more about the stages of the disease and his mom’s progression. Then, he called the 24/7 Helpline (800.272.3900) and was connected with a local support group to help him navigating his journey as a caregiver.
“I realized how valuable the Alzheimer’s Association was to me and to others going through similar experiences,” Tim says. “I just wanted to do my part.”
So he decided to participate in a fundraiser for The Longest Day, a fundraiser that takes place on or around the Summer Solstice, where people from across the world come together to fight the darkness of Alzheimer’s through an activity of their choice.
For Tim, it was crunch time. He only had a few weeks before the Summer Solstice was taking place, but that didn’t stop or delay him in his efforts. He created Tamra’s Ride, and reached out to his friends in the cycling community to join him.
“The coolest thing about The Longest Day is that it’s a fundraiser that you can make yourself,” Tim says. “You can do whatever you are passionate about doing. You can organize it yourself and it’s so easy. You just choose it and do it. What better way is there to help further the research that one day will cure this than to just jump in and do something and ask people to join you?”
For Tim, holding a cycling event was a no-brainer, since it was already a “tight-knit community” that he was involved in. He had friends offer their time and money to help make the event a success, and ultimately created an event that involved riding three 40 mile loops that started and stopped at the same point outside of Greensboro.
“It was therapeutic for me,” Tim says. “I was super grateful to all of my friends, and it was certainly emotional for me coming in the last five miles, but it was an event that gave my friends the opportunity to support me.”
Tim was joined by 15 other cyclists who participated in the ride, but nearly all of the funds he raised were through a Facebook fundraiser he created asking people to donate, where he shared his motivation for riding and personal connection to the disease.
In just a matter of weeks, Tim raised more than $2,600.
“Anybody can create a fundraiser like I did,” Tim says. “The website makes it so easy. I was impressed.”
A few months after Tamra’s Ride, Tim’s mom passed away, but Tim’s passion for ending dementia was just beginning.
“Mom was in complete denial that she had dementia until the day she died,” Tim says. “But although she denied it publicly, she was very aware for it. After she died, I found notes she had written to herself or trying to document her life. There would be half-written notes like “Be sure to tell the boys this, this and this.”
For Tim, seeing the lasting impacts of the disease inspired him to continue his fundraiser for The Longest Day, and keep de-stigmatizing Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia so that one day there will be a world without it.
“I know from my own experience how important funding for research is,” he says. “The Longest Day is a great way to participate and help out your own loved one, as well as others that you don’t know who are facing this tragic disease.
The Longest Day 2020 takes place 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.
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.