Years ago, Henry Edmonds was a pastor in Durham when his wife’s father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
“He was a very outgoing person,” Henry says of his father-in-law. “He was very active in the church, acting as a member of the deacon board and singing in the choir.”
But once his Alzheimer’s began progressing, Henry’s father-in-law began to withdraw from social situations, including activities with his congregation.
“He became a recluse, really,” Henry says. “He was not eating properly and his hygiene became a lot worse.”
So Henry and his wife reached out to the Alzheimer’s Association, and received the resources and support they needed to navigate his diagnosis.
“We knew nothing,” Henry says. “We got involved so we could learn about the symptoms and what happens to the person living with the disease and the people caring for them. It’s a traumatic impact on the whole family.”
While supporting his wife through her journey of being her dad’s primary caregiver, Henry also decided he wanted to educate his community about the tragic disease that was stealing people’s memories.
So he scheduled educational programs held by the Alzheimer’s Association for his congregation.
“I had older members in the church and many of them were experiencing cognitive difficulties,” Henry says. “I wanted to make sure they were educated about the disease.”
Now, Henry is a retired pastor, but his dedication in the fight to end Alzheimer’s is stronger than ever. While working with the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at Duke, Henry decided he wanted to participate in fundraising events that were taking place across the country to raise awareness and funds for the disease.
He had been cycling with his son for years, and when he heard about a cycling event that was taking place from Washington, D.C. to Philadelphia — a 150 mile ride to raise awareness for Alzheimer’s disease — he and his son jumped at the opportunity.
“It was the longest ride we had ever done,” Henry says. “After doing that one, I decided I could start my own fundraiser, so we started a ride here for the Alzheimer’s Association and The Longest Day.”
He called the fundraiser The Longest Ride, and created a 55-mile course along the Neuse River Trail built for cyclists of all experience levels.
This year, The Longest Ride takes place on June 20, 2020, and will feature two distances: a 30-mile route and a 54-mile route. At the end of the day, all rider and volunteers will gather for free food and a special awards ceremony, and all riders who complete the course will receive a medal.
Not only do they raise awareness on the day of the ride, they also charge an entry fee and ask for donations leading up to the event to raise funds for the cause. This year, their goal is $40,000.
“I know the impact that Alzheimer’s has in terms of what a family goes through,” Henry says. “I also know the kind of research that is going on across the country and the world, and I know that researchers need the money we raise through The Longest Ride.”
RIDE OR VOLUNTEER
To sign up as a rider or volunteer for The Longest Ride, visit alz.org/TheLongestRide.
Or, start your own fundraiser for The Longest Day visit alz.org/TLD to learn more.
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.