Bringing a Light of Hope: Mt. Airy
Jennifer Johnson was walking through Lowe’s Home Improvement with her fiancé Mark Brown looking at Halloween decorations when they noticed a massive ornament walkway. It sparked a long-felt desire to bring a light display to the community. Within 30 minutes they had tapped their combined years of theater experience and former roles at Disney to devise a plan that would bring, “a little Disney magic to Mayberry,” raising funds for their Walk to End Alzheimer’s Alzheimer’s Association.
“My great uncle passed away several years ago from complications with Alzheimer’s,” said Jennifer. “It was sad to see him deteriorate that way and not be able to do anything to help.” She had participated in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s in years past, but it was when she took on her latest role as social director at RidgeCrest retirement community in Mount Airy, North Carolina earlier this year that she was struck with the inspiration to do more.
“When I got the job at RidgeCrest in April and found out their big philanthropy initiative was the Alzheimer’s Association, I thought this is fantastic. This is my chance to do something big,” said Jennifer. After the inspiration struck in that aisle at Lowe’s, she got right to work.
RidgeCrest quickly agreed to host the event for not only its residents but the community at large with all proceeds going to their team’s efforts for Walk to End Alzheimer’s – Mount Airy. It donated funds typically used for monthly signature events that were on hold due to COVID-19. Jennifer put ads on Facebook yard sale pages requesting donations of lights and displays and they came pouring in. Harley-Davidson Owners Association of Winston Salem donated, as did Lowe’s Home Improvement from both Mount Airy and Winston Salem.
“As we were working to set up the displays one night a boy came walking up the road and his jaw dropped at the site of the lights,” said Jennifer. “Then a minute later his mom walks up to enjoy with her son and asked why we are doing this. As we told her, she began to cry and tell us about how she recently lost her mother to complications of Alzheimer’s and how seeing those lights brought her so much joy. Soon after they walked away, the boy came back with a very generous donation. If we do nothing else, we have touched one family and are bringing joy to the members at RidgeCrest.”
Holiday Walk of Hope takes place Dec. 16 – 19 from 5-8 p.m. at RidgeCrest (1000 RidgeCrest Lane Mt. Airy, NC) featuring performers, speakers and Santa. Admission is $3 per person, children 2 and under are free. Masks required for entry. The event is wheelchair and handicap accessible. More Information.
Bringing a Touch of Purple to Your Tree: Triangle Area
Since 2010 Karolanne Trogdon has led a The Longest Day and Walk to End Alzheimer’s – Triangle team named Afoot for a Cure. She’s used to giving a last fundraising push at the end of every year, but this year felt different. “COVID is still here, people are stressed out and may not have a lot to donate,” she said. “I put some thought into, ‘How can I make this better?’”
She looked to her strength: creating. Karolanne creates personalized gifts as a side business to her full-time job as a speech therapist and selling holiday ornaments felt like a better ask than a straight donation.
“Assisting the elderly population has always been a passion ever since I worked in a nursing home at 16. After I got involved in speech therapy and learned more about the process behind Alzheimer’s, what happens and how I could help, that passion grew,” said Karolanne about how she first became involved in the Alzheimer’s Association. “Then in the last three years my grandfather was diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment. As a speech therapist I like to think I knew what was going to happen, but having advocates and people you can call 24/7 as a sounding board who don’t know you was wonderful. We lost him about a year and a half ago and that’s why I continue.”
The holiday ornaments have taken off more than Karolanne anticipated and she’s had to reorder supplies a few times. Some Walk to End Alzheimer’s participants are buying them to send to family in leu of holiday cards. “One cool part has been seeing people that don’t usually donate take part,” she said. “People realize they can spend $8 for an ornament.”
While she was planning on ending the fundraiser after November, Karolanne says it will now be a year-round project with 50% donated to the Alzheimer’s Association from October to December and 25% donated the rest of the year.
“I thought about this all year long and believed it might help pick up a few extra donations. But I decided to just go for it, and it’s turned out better than I ever thought,” said Karolanne. “To me, creating these ornaments is just an extension of what I already do. If you have an idea you’ve been considering, just do it. You’ll be surprised how many people will appreciate what you do.”
Visit karoscreativecorner.com and click on Alzheimer’s Awareness. Wooden ornaments are $8 with a range of designs, personalization and matte, glitter or holographic options.
Walk Fundraising Continues
The Alzheimer’s Association is keeping up the momentum and continuing to raise critical funds and awareness with a goal to continue fundraising for all 2020 Walk to End Alzheimer’s events through the end of the calendar year. Since the Walk is everywhere this year, teams and individuals are being encouraged to still register, watch the opening ceremony, walk in their neighborhoods and fundraise on their own. Registrations and donations are still being accepted through Dec. 31 at alz.org/walk.
Join Jennifer and Karolanne in continuing your Walk to End Alzheimer’s fundraising through the end of the year. Alzheimer’s isn’t giving up, and neither will we.
Sarah is director of strategic accounts at Largemouth Communications, a full-service public relations firm based in Durham, North Carolina. She’s served on the marketing committee for Walk to End Alzheimer’s – Triangle since 2018.