The opening paragraph of the Sharon Towers team page for Walk to End Alzheimer’s really tells the story, “At Sharon Towers we believe in our support of the Alzheimer’s Association so strongly that we sponsor our local Walk and want to be proactive in our fundraising and awareness efforts. Everyday at Sharon Towers we are impacted by this terrible disease, and we know many of us are impacted by it in our personal lives as well.”
This isn’t just a declaration, but rather a belief that is woven into the fabric of their community. Sharon Towers is a not-for-profit retirement living community, located in the SouthPark area of Charlotte, North Carolina, that offers independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing care. Director of Vitality and Well-Being, Jessica Bourque, shares that residents typically come to Sharon Towers independently — many are still working, driving and active within the community. As their needs change, Sharon Towers offers every level of care possible – independent living floor, assisted living, skilled nursing, short-term rehab, and a health care center that is focused on residents who are living with any form of dementia.
“We see first-hand the effects that dementia has on our residents on a daily basis,” shares Jessica. “Getting involved with Alzheimer’s Association and the Charlotte Walk was a ‘no brainer’ for us [no pun intended].” Jessica stresses the importance of raising both awareness and funding to support the research in finding treatments to help those living with the disease.
“I don’t know exactly how long we’ve been the presenting sponsor, but I’ve been working at Sharon Towers for 22 years,” shares Jessica. “I think for every one of those years we have been a participant at the Charlotte Walk [to End Alzheimer’s], if not the sponsor.”
The employees of Sharon Towers have had an active Walk team for decades, but the pandemic forced them to develop alternative plans that ultimately proved to be beneficial for everyone. “Last year, we walked only around our campus,” adds Jessica. “This year we kept that option as well as provided transportation for those who wanted to walk at the ballpark uptown.” Regardless of the selected Walk location, the participants wore their purple t-shirts and enjoyed bringing awareness and the camaraderie that is associated with it.
Their recent fundraising efforts, too, have been impacted by the pandemic but that hasn’t stopped them from once again embracing their creativity. From themed baskets auctioned off, tomato sandwich days to partnering with some of the area restaurants on ‘Sharon Towers Walk Team’ days, when there’s a will, there’s a way to continue raising money. Because of that creativity, the Sharon Towers Walkers have ranked as Charlotte’s #1 fundraising team for the last two years and is currently ranked the #8 top fundraising Walk team nationwide with nearly $140,000 raised by their team members this year. It is important to note that these funds are in addition to the presenting sponsorship that Sharon Towers proudly provides each year.
Jessica adds that they have some amazing residents who are currently living with the disease and passionate about the cause. There’s one gentleman who was diagnosed with early stages of dementia about 10 years ago. During that time it has become increasingly challenging for him to remember when it is time for lunch or dinner, as well as whether he has signed up to participate in various group activities. What he does remember, however, is that fact that he’s an avid supporter of Walk to End Alzheimer’s. While he may have needed a phone call to remind him that it was Walk Day, he remembered to wear his purple shirt, brought a donation check with him, and walked a mile and a half with his group. To see him realize his sense of accomplishment was an impactful moment indeed.
There’s another resident who’s been extremely active with the Alzheimer’s Association’s Charlotte office as well as the Walk. Her mother is in the moderate to late stages of living with disease, so she walked with her on campus. Both wearing their purple shirts, the daughter bundled her mom up and put her in the wheelchair. Her mother held her Promise Garden flowers, smiled, sang in the hallway and was really happy about the experience. Despite her mother not being able to join her at the stadium, the daughter also walked at the ballpark uptown, representing her mother as the blue flower in the event’s Promise Garden Ceremony. The daughter’s unwavering support and drive to continue participating in the walk despite her mother’s condition is a powerful testimony.
“I really enjoy the fact that the Walk provides us [employees and residents] with the opportunity to gather in our purple Walk shirts,” offers Jessica. “It’s beautiful to see unity and togetherness.” Jessica adds that it’s really easy for her to ‘sell’ someone in getting involved with the Walk. All they need to do is spend a few hours with her on the job as she experiences the devastating impact it has on the residents and their families on a daily basis. She believes that some people tend to discount Alzheimer’s and other dementia as something that only affects older people. What’s important to her is highlighting that more and more people are living with this disease than ever before and focusing on the fact that people are getting diagnosed at a much younger age. The inability to remember one’s friends and family is heartbreaking.
The good news is that people are not as hesitant to discuss the topic of dementia and it carries less of a ‘stigma.’ Jessica notes that during her tenure at Sharon Towers, she has observed the shame associated with a dementia diagnosis and its cover up attempts have dissipated. In her role of vitality and well-being, residents who have been diagnosed with dementia reach out to her in a proactive manner to determine what measures they can take to live longer and better.
Further displaying their commitment to the cause, Sharon Towers has partnered with the Association in delivering educational programs on understanding Alzheimer’s and dementia, brain health and wellness. Jessica stresses that the work of the Association goes far and beyond what is available to those residents within their community. “Our goal in supporting the Walk and the Association is such that everyone has the same access to these valuable care and support programs throughout the Charlotte community.” To that end, Sharon Towers has sponsored a dementia education series to open to not just their residents, but also the Charlotte community to highlight the importance of healthy living for the brain and body along with early detection during Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month.
Whether it is through generous sponsorship, creative fundraising, raising educational awareness or even simply providing water for an event, Sharon Towers hits a homerun every time in their dedication to those in the Alzheimer’s community. They are a resounding example of how a collective group of passionate people can make a powerful impact.
LIKE SHARON TOWERS, WE ALL HAVE A REASON TO FIGHT FOR A WORLD WITHOUT ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE. Connect with our Walk staff to learn more on how you can join your local 2023 Walk to End Alzheimer’s next year as a sponsor or team by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 800.272.3900. It is never too early to get started.
The Alzheimer’s Association hosts 17 walks across North Carolina. The Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s is the world’s largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Since 1989, the Alzheimer’s Association® mobilized millions of Americans in the Alzheimer’s Association Memory Walk®; now the Alzheimer’s Association is continuing to lead the way with Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Together, we can end Alzheimer’s.