Building an End to Alzheimer’s, One Phase at a Time

On the company website for McKee Homes it says, “There is no back office at McKee – we are one team, front and center.” This declaration speaks to every aspect of their business, but also accurately describes how they have also established themselves as a leader in the fight to end Alzheimer’s and all forms of dementia in North Carolina. What started in 2011 by helping establish the Walk to End Alzheimer’s – Fayetteville has entered three additional phases of impact. Out of the 17 Walks across North Carolina, McKee Homes is the presenting sponsor of four Walk to End Alzheimer’s events: Triangle, Fayetteville, Moore County and Wilmington. But it’s more than a sponsorship for this company. At each Walk, McKee Homes creates a team, empowers their employees to join them in fundraising, in addition to encouraging their industry peers and business partners to donate to their team for the cause. They really are one team, front and center.

Pouring the Foundation

In 2010, the McKee family lost their father, Joe McKee, to Alzheimer’s disease, pouring the foundation for their passion. The family sought a way to honor his memory and advocate for the cause so no other family would have to walk the path of the long goodbye ever again. Brothers Pat and Mike McKee formed McKee Homes in their dad’s honor, carrying out their father’s life-long dream of the home building business. Additionally, they created a special fund to ensure that their father’s Alzheimer’s journey would remain front and center in the minds of their employees and customers. “A portion of every home we sell goes to the Joe McKee Memorial Alzheimer’s Fund. We use those funds to support the Alzheimer’s Association,” says Julie Russo, Vice President of the company’s Community Embrace. “We strive for the same thing that the Alzheimer’s Association does: A World Without Alzheimer’s.”

Shortly after their wedding, Pat began a conversation with his bride, Julie, about how the business could raise awareness for Alzheimer’s outside of the business. In expressing this passion with the Alzheimer’s Association – Eastern North Carolina Chapter, they discovered there was a need and desire for a Walk event in Fayetteville. Julie hit the ground running and chaired the committee for the first Walk in Fayetteville. The event happened in 2011 with humble beginnings at one of the McKee Homes building neighborhoods. After three years with the growing Fayetteville Walk, the next phase of commitment came in 2014 to Walk to End Alzheimer’s – Triangle. The following year, McKee Homes expanded their sponsorship to Walk to End Alzheimer’s – Wilmington. Finally, the latest phase of building their passion came in 2019, through the Walk to End Alzheimer’s – Moore County. Why these four, you may ask? Each Walk represents a region that McKee Homes builds in. Julie provides further insight in this decision by sharing, “Being a Presenting Sponsor is one way to let the communities know that we believe in and are committed to the work that the Alzheimer’s Association does. Leading by example also encourages other business in the community to get involved, which has been a goal of ours from the beginning.”

Engaging their workforce

When it came to getting their employees and associates on board with the company’s passion, Julie expresses that it had its challenges. But slowly but surely, the domino effect began as more of the McKee Homes workforce participated and became – in her words – cheerleaders. Each of the company’s four Walk teams is led by one of their associates in that region. They’re empowered to set their own Walk goals and are supported by the previous team captain who acts as a mentor to the current team captain. At the Moore County Walk this past year, McKee Homes Team Captain, Ronnie Kaminsky, spoke during the Opening Ceremony. She recalled of how she was deeply moved and inspired to become involved with the cause her first day on the job with McKee Homes. She went on to lead her team as #2 in overall team fundraising in 2022 with $8,947 raised. This is just one example of the fundraising success of McKee Homes associates each year.

The company has made the Joe McKee Memorial Alzheimer’s fund and its partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association integral aspects of their onboarding process and daily company culture. “We recognize our team captains’ efforts and those on their teams at all staff meetings.  We have friendly competitions between each Walk team and announce who is “winning” using infographics and fun in-house marketing shout outs.” Another way, Julie shares, that they strive to keep the mission moving forward is through monthly zoom meetings with all the team captains and supporting members where they discuss goals, fundraising ideas, and the different resources that the Alzheimer’s Association provides on the local level.

Recruiting business partners

An additional aspect of support is given to Team Captains through the McKee Homes Trade Partner Liaison, who assists the team captain in recruiting business partners to join our team and donate. Julie shares this is an opportunity they extend to participating partners by referring to them as Walk Partners and recognition is given to highlight their support in a variety of ways: social media, in person signage at the McKee Homes tent on Walk Day, and more. Their Walk Partners are also encouraged to attend on Walk Day to see and experience what their contribution provides to support the ongoing care, resources, and research funded through the Alzheimer’s Association for the 180,000 North Carolinians living with Alzheimer’s disease.

Building upon their success

When asked her favorite moment of Walk Day, Julie says, “Seeing everyone together on Walk Day is inspirational.” In the past, Pat, Julie, or another member of the leadership team have spoken on behalf of the company during the Opening Ceremony. Now, they’re encouraging their Team Captains to take front and center at the microphone. According to Julie, “For many of them, being on stage, talking to hundreds of people is not an easy thing.  Seeing them embrace that discomfort for the greater good, is an incredibly proud moment for me.”

We asked Julie outside of a personal connection, why she felt companies should partner with Walk to End Alzheimer’s by starting a team or sponsoring. She replied, “Companies are made up of people.  Most people have some sort of connection to the disease. Caregivers are impacted deeply, and this does affect productivity. Even if a company does not have associates who are directly affected by Alzheimer’s, our health care system has been – and will be- greatly impacted if we don’t find a way to slow down and hopefully end this disease.” Further inspiration for companies to get involved is through expanding beyond the reach of inside the walls of their own business through involving personal and professional network connections, like McKee Homes has exemplified over the past twelve years. Julie breaks it down to three reasons she would encourage other business to embrace this mission through partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association:

  • It’s easy. The Alzheimer’s Association has incredible resources to support participants, including the Walk page itself, the Walk app, the ability to deposit checks automatically, team captain guides, and fundraising ideas.                                         
  • Having a mission outside of what your company does day to day, sets you apart from other companies.  Applicants seek you out, because they see that you care about others.                                                                                                                                                  
  • When people in the community see our logo or hear our name, they know that we are the builder that supports the Alzheimer’s Association. 

As the company looks ahead to 2023, plans are already being drawn for the next phase of McKee Homes’ construction of building a world without Alzheimer’s. As evidenced since 2011, one thing is abundantly clear: McKee Homes will continue to be one team, front and center in the fight against Alzheimer’s.

LIKE MCKEE HOMES, 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 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.

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