Jun 202012

Ciao tutti,

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.

Post Update

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.

  9 Responses to “Relaying from the Bahamas to Belgium to Fight Alzheimer’s”

  1. I felt I must comment. After having lunch with a person from the Alzheimer's Organization I am so proud of you guys. Both of my parents have dementia and my father-in-law had Alzheimer's. I must say understanding the disease for me wasn't easy. Candy from Alz.org gave me many tools that I didn't have to deal with my situation. I am an only child in my 60's that really didn't know what to do and I really didn't know what to expect. Candy mapped it all out for me. It's hard to understand when you are in the dark about this disease. It really is a devastating disease. God Bless you all for making people aware of it and maybe getting a cure somewhere down the road.

  2. Good luck Gina!

  3. Sorry to hear about the loss of your grandmother. I am experiencing a similar situation with my wife Tina. She is only 57 and was diagosed back in 2006 with frontal lobe dementia. She is rapidly deteriorated . I have been the sole caregiver and it is very hard to see your love one go this way.

    • I agree, this is the most difficult time, because of the lack of motor functions and lack of communication. Perhaps you can ask if you can help her with her exercises. Simple range of motion techniques, like raising the arms and legs. Brushing her hair can both theraputic for you and your mom.

  4. Big hugs to you all and especially Gina!! My Mom has alzheimers and my Uncle Joe passed away from this as well. This has been a living nightmare!! My heart goes out to all of the caregivers but to the actual people who have been diagnosed as well! She's not the mother, wife, sister, nor friend that we all could count on but at least we still have those memories. If you are still in the early stages PLEASE take some kind of a family vacation before the disease gets worse, because after it hits it's very hard to do anything. Make sure to take lots of pictures, enjoy your family times together, and give lots of hugs. Try to make things as comfortable and stay on a routine as this will help those with this disease. Learn as much as you can and don't hesitate to ask for help from others! I believe that is why God puts those people in our lives as we can take care of ourselves as well. Big thanks to Katherine Fuller you are our secret angel!

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  8. In bocca lupo, Gina. We love you, not only for you but for what you are doing (have done). I don't know if you knew our Uncle Wille, or not. He was my Mother's brother, my uncle. He was Norma Jean's (Rudy's wife) father. He had alzheimers at his death.

    Tell Tim "Hello" and give your lovely children a big hug from Gerrie and myself.

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