Two Fathers, Two journeys, One Mission

Jerry and Kay Tucker have been volunteers on the planning committee for Walk to End Alzheimer’s – Guilford County for four years. They have seen their walk event grow from a crowd that barely filled a small park at High Point University to overflowing LeBauer Park in downtown Greensboro. They have grown their understanding of just how many in their community need the support of the Alzheimer’s Association and learned to expand their reach. They have repeatedly blown past fundraising goals. To say their experience with Walk planning has taught them the flexibility to dream big would be an understatement, but their journey started many years ago as they both watched their fathers fight Alzheimer’s disease.

Kay’s dad, Hubert, managed an ice cream shop in High Point for over 50 years. He was “really outgoing and social,” shares Kay, “telling corny jokes” and “giving out free wafers to all the kids that came in his store. He was a very jovial person.” The family started noticing things were changing when he started asking for directions to places he and his wife frequented, which is one of the warning signs of the disease. He also started changing his hearing aid batteries at a much higher rate. After his diagnosis, Kay helped her mom out with caregiving, seeing just how much of a toll it was taking on her as well. “She was really the rock of our family,” explains Kay. “[Everything] was really hard on her. It was exhausting to watch him pace to the mailbox multiple times a day.” Throughout his Alzheimer’s journey, however, Kay’s father continued to serve ice cream and smiles, eventually passing away in 2005.

Jerry’s father Charlie was the president of an electric contracting company. He was “introverted, but kind”. His journey with Alzheimer’s could not be more different. For starters, Jerry had lost his mom in 1998, so his father did not have someone watching his decline firsthand from the beginning. When his mom passed away, she told Jerry that “something wasn’t quite right” with his Dad, but they did not even imagine Alzheimer’s until he had a mild heart attack and was diagnosed in the hospital. The family started noticing driving habit changes after this, and a lost ability to cook independently. After being swindled out of a “good sum” of money from a scam phone call, Jerry and Kay hired in-home care to help with caregiving. Jerry’s father fixated on Walker Texas Ranger and “would have watched it 24/7 if we let him!” laughs Jerry. Jerry still thinks he can recite full episodes from memory, even though his father passed in 2009.

After losing both of their fathers to Alzheimer’s disease, Kay and Jerry started participating in Walking to End Alzheimer’s in their memories. Their first walk was a small event, where they walked with a friend that had a personal connection. Those first couple of years, they fundraised through their network of friends and family and focused on finding a cure for this disease. Over the years, their effort has grown to a full community affair, with bake sales and a pre-walk event at their church. They give educational presentations at their church to “give back” throughout the walk season, which seems to boost their fundraising even more. Last year they collectively raised over $5,700, making them the 3rd highest fundraising team for the Guilford Walk. They walk with two teams each year, both a personal team, Hubert & Charlie, and a church team, Wesley Memorial UMC High Point.

Their lesson of flexibility will no doubt be important this year as well as they gear up to walk in their local community this fall. Some things will stay roughly the same. Jerry will still be giving presentations to his fellow church members and educating them on why eradicating Alzheimer’s disease is so important to him. His church, holding outside services until further notice, has scheduled a full service dedicating to honoring their elders, so he hopes to fit in a presentation then. Some things may be different this season though. They are focusing their fundraising efforts on education and support efforts at the Alzheimer’s Association this year, recognizing the current needs of caregivers are exponentially worse during a pandemic. Also, when asked what his favorite part of walk day is, Jerry laughs and exclaims confidently, “the early morning snacks from Walk sponsors, of course!” While snacks will be missed, on Walk Day, October 17, Jerry and Kay are looking forward to walking with a couple of friends with personal connections to honor lost family members and fight for a world without Alzheimer’s disease.

LIKE KAY AND JERRY WE ALL HAVE A REASON FOR WE ARE FIGHTING FOR A WORLD WITHOUT ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE. Start your own team or join an existing team for one of our nineteen North Carolina Walk to End Alzheimer’s events:

The world may look a little different right now, but one thing hasn’t changed: our commitment to ending Alzheimer’s. This year, Walk to End Alzheimer’s® is everywhere — on every sidewalk, track and trail. Your health and safety are our top priorities. We won’t have a large in-person gathering — instead, we invite you to walk in small teams of friends and family while others in your community do the same. Because we are all still walking and fundraising for the same thing: a world without Alzheimer’s and all other dementia.

When you participate in the Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s®, you’re part of a community that cares — and that community, which starts in your backyard and stretches across the country, has never needed us more. With the dollars we raise, the Alzheimer’s Association® can provide care and support during these uncertain times while advancing critical research toward methods of treatment and prevention.

Register today at alz.org/walk and join the movement.

2020 WALK DATES

Alamance County – 9.26.20
Asheville – 10.10.20
Charlotte – 10.17.20
Fayetteville – 10.31.20
Gaston/Cleveland/Lincoln – 9.12.20
Guilford County – 10.17.20
Henderson County – 9.26.20
Hickory – 10.24.20
Iredell County – 10.10.20
Jacksonville – 10.17.20
Moore County – 9.26.20
Mount Airy – 9.12.20
New Bern – 10.25.20
North Wilkesboro – 10.10.20
Robeson County – 10.24.20
Rowan-Cabarrus – 10.24.20
Triangle (Raleigh-Durham) – 10.10.20
Wilmington – 11.7.20
Winston-Salem – 10.3.20

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