Rotary Club Member Marries Personal Connection and Civic Duty

Sarah McLellan’s great grandmother moved from Sweden when she was a teenager. She raised Sarah’s grandmother Shirley to find pride in working hard, taking care of her family and building a home. Shirley and her brother had a house on Cape Cod where Sarah and her family would spend their summers. Shirley had five kids and 10 grandchildren. Sarah remembers these summers with her large family fondly.

Sarah was in late elementary school when her grandma Shirley started acting differently. During their summer visits, Sarah remembers her father fishing pots and pans out of the backyard bushes where Shirley had thrown them, instead of washing them. She also suddenly decided that she wasn’t a cigarette smoker anymore after smoking her entire life. After Shirley’s brother passed, the family moved her to a memory care facility, so she wouldn’t be alone. Visits there were poignant for Sarah, admitting a feeling of fear, watching the strange actions of the residents. “We never actually sat down and had a discussion about what was happening,” shares Sarah, “but kids are perceptive. They pick up on things.” Sarah distinctly remembers the stress in the faces of the adults around her, knowing that something was wrong. Shirley lived around five years in this memory care facility with a “fantastic care team” before passing away.

Fast forwarding to present day, Sarah fights against the disease that took her grandmother. Her first Walk to End Alzheimer’s – Rowan-Cabarrus was two years ago, and she has since grown her understanding of how much impact one person can make in this fight. As Walk Team Captain, she leads local Rotary club, the Rotary Club of Cabarrus County team, which is part of the Alzheimer’s/Dementia Rotary Action Group National Walk Team. Many Rotarians, Rotaractors and Interactors that have extensive leadership experience around Alzheimer’s including Alzheimer’s education, patient care, prevention management, research for a cure and strategic partnership. Because of this the Alzheimer’s/Dementia Rotary Action Group has chosen to band together to meld their passion and energies and direct them to supporting the efforts of Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

Sarah views her Rotary’s Walk team as such an important visual: “we are all so different. We are lawyers, community leaders, county employees…this event brings people together from the full community.” Dementia unfortunately does not discriminate, “touching more people that [we] even realize.” Thinking back to past walks, Sarah shares that her favorite part of walk day is crossing the finish line. Her diverse team might walk at different paces–some in wheelchairs, some power walkers– but they all meet up at the end to cross together. She really embraces the motto “together, we can end Alzheimer’s.”

This year, of course, Walk looks a little different. Sarah has been fundraising exclusively online, with some success. She praises the ability to connect her fundraising page to Facebook, sharing that she has really seen a jump this year in individual donations through that channel. She reaches out to friends and family with a simple message– “this year, you have no choice.” Sarah says that she approaches her friends that are stuck at home with her own personal stories, asking them to join her in “doing something good while supporting something I care about.” Sarah’s plan for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s – Rowan-Cabarrus on October 24 is to don her walk t-shirt and walk with her boyfriend and her dog in their neighborhood. She hopes that she will see neighbors, so she can share her stories of growing up on Cape Cod with her grandmother Shirley, and why they too should join her in the fight to end Alzheimer’s.

LIKE SARAH AND HER ROTARY CLUB 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 and join the movement.


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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