My name is Gina Steedley Wills. My biological grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at age 55 and eventually passed away at age 63. She went from being a very strong, tall, intelligent woman to just a shell, a skeleton. It was a terrible way to leave this world and it made quite an impact on me.
Today I’m running and walking for three hours as part of the Alzheimer’s Association The Longest Day™ because I want to raise awareness for this terrible disease. In addition, I am President of the European Alumnae Chapter of Sigma Kappa Sorority, and because our members are scattered across time zones, we thought this would be a great way for us to be together and raise money for one of our most important philanthropies.
I am happy to support the Alzheimer’s Association because through my membership in Sigma Kappa, I have been able to see the good works that they have done and continue to do. I will continue to support them until a cure is found!
I’m starting our relay in Lapedona, Italy. I am going to run and walk from my house overlooking the Adriatic Sea and the Sibillini Mountains, and make my way to the coast. Then I am going to walk through the town of Porto San Giorgio, in the Le Marche region, and join my associates at a beautiful 18th century villa, where we are running an English camp for Italian children with our non-profit organization, Polly Glot. I hope to get there a little early, because I want to involve the children at the very end by dancing together with them. I am going to attempt the Carolina Shag with my nephew, Zach, who is visiting me for the summer. I have two left feet so it should be interesting!
I am then passing on the virtual “baton” to my sister, Ali Edelstein, who will be doing her activity in Freeport in the Bahamas. The relay will then hop all over the world through different time zones; from the Bahamas to Belgium, over to Maryland, back to England, Finland and Bahrain, then over the Atlantic Ocean again to Colorado. Then back to England and on to Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Edwards (in California), Colorado — and finally to the finish line, in Chicago.
I am so thrilled that our Chapter has been able to get so many sisters to participate, and I’m very proud to be a part of this exciting event. I feel blessed that, on the longest day of the year, my sorority sisters are going to be with me, showing everyone that Alzheimer’s is a disease that we will overcome.
I hope everyone will say to me “in bocca lupo” — which in Italian means “Good luck!”
Gina Steedley Wills is a freelance lawyer-linguist living in Italy. She enjoys walking with her husband Tim and swimming in the sea with her 12-year-old triplets George, Hamish and Steedley. She has participated in two Alzheimer’s Memory Walks and several 10k races. She is participating in Alzheimer’s Association The Longest Day™, a sunrise-to-sunset relay supporting those affected by Alzheimer’s disease.
Okay, three hours later, I think about how my walk went. I didn’t realize how hot it was going to be! I thought that since I was starting the day, perhaps it would be quite cool. I was wrong! I also thought that I was relatively fit but now I am really tired! I also have a full day to get through, working with over 80 children until almost sunset! I also didn’t take into account the fact that Italians are terrible drivers and many times I thought I was going to be run over. On the other hand, I was quite visible in my purple t-shirt and I got lots of honking horns so at least I brought some awareness about what I was doing. I was also stopped by a few teams of cyclists who were happy to hear about what I was doing and say “Forza, Gina!” offering me encouragement. It was lovely to finally arrive at the villa and see the kids’ enthusiasm. I found the time a great opportunity to reflect on my life and why I was walking; for the Alzheimer’s Association and to continue the strong bond with my sorority sisters.
I’m really happy I decided to participate in this new initiative of the Alzheimer’s Association. We have to beat this disease, and we can. I feel so blessed that I am healthy and I can contribute to the fight. I also hope that I, with the help of my wonderful sisters in the European Alumnae Chapter, can continue to participate. When the sun starts going down, I will happily light my candle and raise a glass of Rosso Piceno in a toast to my sisters who are still continuing the relay.