Individuals pledge their support to the Alzheimer’s Association for a variety of reasons — many because a loved one has been diagnosed, others because they have lost someone to the disease, and some because they are living with dementia. But possibly, the most overlooked group are those that do not have a direct connection, but are in the fight anyway.
That community, although often quieter than those that have personal connections, are integral to actualizing this vision. They are “normalizing” dementia, bringing attention to an even wider audience. Bianca Johnson, local Triad area baker, is one such example of this community. She is raising awareness and funds on The Longest Day, June 20, in a personal and unique way.
“I am an ‘artsy’ person,” Bianca begins. “I have grown up with arts, food, music. I’ve always stuck with baking. It’s been the medicine of my soul.” During a period of medically directed bed-rest, Bianca’s neighbor was getting married, noticed Bianca was going a bit “stir crazy” and requested that Bianca attempt to make their wedding cake. The rest, as some say, is history. Professional baker Bianca Johnson currently operates out of a commercial kitchen baking for all types of events, from high end weddings to low-key family events. She laughs as she describes herself as the “cake ninja”, often presenting her cakes behind the scenes, before events even begin but you can hear the joy and pride in her voice as she knows how integral that cake will be to the event. “I love the idea of weddings with cake being the focus” Bianca explains, “places to commune and be happy and just dance. Giving food and seeing smiles makes me the most happy.”
Even before she acquired her baking business, Bianca was involved in the idea of “community.” In her professional and personal life, Bianca is a gamer. She live streams game play, occasionally for fundraisers of various important causes. “I have been a video gamer all my life,” she explains. Most notably, the gaming company she worked for would host Extra Life parties to raise funds for the local children’s cancer hospital. People would donate to participate in the party, a successful model she has learned to replicate. As fate would have it at the end of her contract with that gaming company, she met a woman who catered one of these parties, that eventually sold her her current baking business.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Bianca saw her baking business quickly dry up without weddings to support. Instead of throwing in the towel, Bianca started using up her available supplies by baking for first responders that were “literally holding our world together.” She explains, “when I’m stressed out, it helps to help other people stress a bit less.” Following more than a year of unprecedented stress and anxiety, engaging in activities that are good for the brain may be more important than ever. Reports indicate that chronic stress, like that experienced during the current pandemic, can impact memory, mood and anxiety. It can also promote inflammation in the brain and other potentially damaging conditions affecting brain function. There is evidence to suggest that helping others during the pandemic may not only make you feel better, but it may be good for you as well. Research shows that helping others in a crisis can be an effective way to alleviate stress and anxiety. One study published during the pandemic found that adults over age 50 who volunteer for about two hours per week have a substantially reduced risk of dying, higher levels of physical activity and an improved sense of well-being.
Once her business started to pick back up again, Bianca felt that this community support was something she just had to continue. She cast her net out wide to decide what cause to support, and landed on the Alzheimer’s Association. She wanted to support a cause that wasn’t all that obvious, one that wasn’t at “top of mind” for the country. Her main reasoning came down to this: “[Caregivers and those living with the disease] have to change their entire lifestyle for something they can’t control. I have watched friends with grandparents slowly lose who they are. It is such a dead end road.” Bianca wanted to make a difference here.
On the Longest Day, June 20th, Bianca plans to combine all of her loves by doing a full day of baking- live streamed for the world to join in. She expects full community support from her friends, family and game streaming community since they are all used to participating in these sorts of events. Bianca will bake as long as people participate, answering any baking or Alzheimer’s related questions people might have. She will point families towards her local Association chapter if they need local resources. Her focus on the 20 will be cupcakes, in The Longest Day brand colors, that Bianca plans to deliver to local memory care communities to spread a bit of cheer. Bianca advises others searching for a cause on The Longest Day to “Find a fight for something that is bigger than you. Just because you haven’t been through it [personally], doesn’t minimize the damage and the pain that someone else has gone through. Let your heart lead you. Do your research and get started.”
LIKE BIANCA, WE ALL HAVE A REASON TO 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!