Connecting on a personal level during this pandemic is often challenging. Wireless internet connections make for choppy videos and phone calls lack the visual often associated with comfort. When remembering her grandmother Kathryn, however, Richfield, N.C. resident Jenn LaVance’s voice rings true with a clear smile. Her joy is palpable. “She was an amazing, strong woman,” recounts Jenn. “She spent so much time with [my cousins and I] teaching us cards.” Jenn’s grandfather passed before she was born, so it was “always just my grandmother and my cousins and me.” She admired this independence. Jenn recalls vividly making biscuits with her grandmother Kathryn, using cookie cutters to create the perfect shape. After her grandmother had a stroke, the family started noticing that these traits that made Kathryn special also presented safety concerns.
Jenn had a standing date with her grandmother to eat lunch every Wednesday. About 11 years ago, Jenn went for her normal lunchtime meeting and found that her grandmother had gone for a walk instead. “At that time, I didn’t really understand the gravity of the situation,” explains Jenn. “She believed she was fine, but she wouldn’t remember if she had taken her medication — or she would leave the stove on.” Protecting her independence became difficult when the family decided to move her into a nursing home to keep her safe. “She fought us hard,” remembers Jenn. Her grandmother lived with dementia for about 9 years before passing away last spring.
Jenn has been participating in her local Walk to End Alzheimer’s for several years and speaks fondly of her shared experiences in these crowds. She missed this feeling all year, looking forward to Walk day. In 2017, her friend suggested that she pair her already successful jewelry business with fundraising, a natural fit that got her talking about Alzheimer’s year round — a perfect The Longest Day campaign idea. The Longest Day is when people from across the world will fight the darkness of Alzheimer’s through a fundraising activity of their choice. And this is when Accessories for Alzheimer’s Awareness was born. “I love jewelry,” Jenn shares. “I don’t care what kind, necklaces, earrings, whatever. And everything is affordable (at $5 a piece), which is another part that I love.” Jenn would attend vendor events to sell her jewelry, and donate portions of her profits to the Alzheimer’s Association. Eventually, as her business grew, she started doing sale events on Facebook live, well before this pandemic made it necessary!
Jenn’s favorite part about participating in The Longest Day is that it shines a bit of hope in this time of isolation. “I love going live [on Facebook] and talking about Alzheimer’s. There is always someone that has been affected. Connecting with other people makes me realize that it does affect almost everyone. My family is not the only one. Then I don’t feel so alone,” shares Jenn. Through her live sales, she hopes that “others can feel that connection too as we raise money and awareness. There is a community out there that understands.” She laughs when she admits that she is sometimes surprised to find people that aren’t interested in any of the jewelry, but will donate directly to her team or even join her in fundraising.
Even though her business pairs so well with her fundraising efforts, Jenn is careful to point out to all new The Longest Day participants that she does also have challenges that she is working through. This week, for example, she hasn’t had time to go live and fundraise because her dog just had two sweet pups! She is confident she will get back at it soon. “I feel blessed that I am already online, but in every day conversations people naturally want to help. They will either donate money or get involved themselves. There are so many ways to fundraise,” Jenn advises despite her challenges. “One day there will be a survivor. This makes me think of my own family and what we went through. Every little bit helps, whether the contribution is big or small.” Join Jenn in shining a light against the darkness of Alzheimer’s, and maybe, just maybe, she’ll show you puppy pictures.
LIKE JENN WE ALL HAVE A REASON TO GET CREATIVE IN THE FIGHT FOR A WORLD WITHOUT ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE. Start planning your own The Longest Day Fundraiser today.
The day with the most light is the day we fight! On The Longest Day, thousands of participants from across the world will come together to fight the darkness of Alzheimer’s through an activity of their choice. Together, they will use their creativity and passion to raise funds and awareness for the care, support and research efforts of the Alzheimer’s Association®. Whether participating at home, online or in-person, we have plenty of fun ideas to engage family and friends in The Longest Day. Join the fun today!