Jun 212013

My mom, whom we lovingly call LuLu, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2008. We have been through quite the journey ever since.  There have been challenging and scary times when we didn’t know what might lie ahead, and there have also been incredibly inspiring times, when we’ve been touched by others who readily jump in to help based on their own experiences with Alzheimer’s. purple sunset

When I heard about The Longest Day, a 16-hour Alzheimer’s Association event, I thought it was such a unique way to recognize the millions of people who face Alzheimer’s every hour of every day, and to raise money for such a great cause.  I decided to sign up and ask a few family and friends to join if they could, but I fully expected to cover the majority of the day on my own given that it is on Friday and most people are working.

I was so overwhelmed when the responses came back immediately.  “I’m in!” —one person after another.  Before I knew it, we had all 16 hours of the longest day of the year completely scheduled with activities in LuLu’s honor.

Love of Lulu 1

I could hardly sleep last night—I was so excited for today to get here! Our team, “For the Love of LuLu,” passed a “virtual baton” across multiple states. My college roommate Jenny started us off at 5:30 a.m. (bless her heart) doing aerobics in Chicago.  Then, my sister-in-law Terri walked her dogs in New Hampshire.  Next, I walked my dogs in Aurora.  LuLu LOVES dogs so we had several dog activities throughout the day!

My nephews Tyler and Mike both fished (in separate states), my sister-in-law Sue knitted in Michigan, and more folks walked in Texas and Illinois—including my cousin Lynda who gave LuLu her nickname when we were children!  My husband Tom and stepson Corey played/watched baseball, which is one of LuLu’s favorite sports since she supported all three of my brothers through their baseball years.

One of the most anticipated activities was performed by my friend Tami, who dressed up in a cowboy hat and line danced to John Denver, LuLu’s favorite musical artist.  🙂

We’ve raised $3,550 so far and we aren’t stopping there!  One of our most memorable donations was from the kids in student council at the school where my sister-in-law Lynn teaches.  They held a talent show to raise money for Alzheimer’s and donated all proceeds to our team.  We affectionately now call them our “Little LuLus.”

Now, as the sun sets, we are hosting “The Longest Party” and serving several of LuLu’s famous dishes – cucumber sandwiches, deviled eggs and kolaczki cookies.  As we reflect on the day, we are inspired by how many people have come together in Lulu’s honor.  She is my hero, and I will continue to work to end Alzheimer’s until there is a day when no daughter has to watch her mother live with this disease.

Diane Leeming is the youngest of five children. Diane, her husband Tom, her stepson Corey, and their two dogs live in the Chicagoland area.  Diane works in Human Resources and is currently Senior Director of Organization Effectiveness for Kraft Foods Group.  She and her family and friends are participating in the Alzheimer’s Association The Longest Day™ , a sunrise-to-sunset relay to raise awareness and funds for the fight against Alzheimer’s. 

Jun 212013

toddpI’m an actor from San Francisco who came home for Christmas and stayed.  My Mom is in Stage 4 of Alzheimer’s. My Dad is in denial, but he is getting better.

I went to the Alzheimer’s Association and they gave me lots of support, ideas and the skills to move ahead.  They also asked me to do The Longest Day, a 16-hour event to raise funds for Alzheimer’s support, care and research.

I chose theatre.  What was I thinking????

I was worried about my choice, but then I watched “Madagascar 3.” That’s right.  You heard me.  “Madagascar 3.” And I got all teary and emotional…but not when you would expect. It happened when they PUT ON A SHOW in a crazy, grandiose Cirque d’ Soleil way. I wept…..openly. And then I knew I had made the right choice.
So, at 5 a.m. this morning, I got up to prepare for the day of theatre ahead of me.

Thank goodness my pal Ian Smith in the United Kingdom did a comedy radio show in the wee hours. But, now it’s my turn. I’ve got to get down to the Mill Coffee Shop in the Haymarket of Lincoln, Nebraska, to meet my co-hostess Jessica West Bower for our morning talk show “Mornings Are a Drag.”  Drag Queens are always late so I might be vamping a bit there.  Then off to the Tada Theatre across the way for a day of show tunes and Chopin, sonnets, soliloquies and schtick.   I have all ages signed up to perform for 16 hours and it will be open to the public. It is going to be an amazing day of making memories – memories that seem more important than ever before.

One of my friends, Brendan Kelly, who is a fellow actor, stated in his donation comment box, “In support of live theatre everywhere and the healing the arts provide.”  And that is why I am doing this:  My mom gave me the support when I boldly stated I wanted to be an actor ,and it’s only fair I give back. The thought of keeping someone and their family from going through this would bring me so much joy and what better way to celebrate than by doing what has always given me the greatest joy in my life—performing.

About the blog author: Todd Pickering is participating in Alzheimer’s Association The Longest Day®, a sunrise-to-sunset event on June 21, 2013, to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research. 

Jun 202013

TLD_Homepage_BlogFeature_Bernie (1)The porters pack my tent and soon there is a line of headlamps ahead, trailing the lead guide. It will be an extraordinarily long night.  One that I am embarking upon as part of The Longest Day, an Alzheimer’s Association event that involves thousands of participants throughout the world who are passionate about finding a cure for Alzheimer’s and providing assistance to all those who have this illness.

Family heartbreak inspires action
As a boy, I overheard stories of how Grandmom was placed in an asylum because Grandpa couldn’t take care of her. She would wander away (sometimes in the middle of the night, sometimes with few clothes) down the street, challenging every compassionate act provided by Grandpa.

Many years later, the symptoms of this merciless disease became evident as my mother would demonstrate unusual behavior, make strange comments, and frighten us with her driving, lack of personal hygiene, financial mismanagement and delusions. The remaining family wrestled with how to keep mom safe in her own home, providing her with ready cooked meals, access to emergency care, therapeutic help and community services. Yet, in the back of our minds and contrary to the hope in our heart, we knew we were losing. Mom was eventually placed in an assisted living after we tried keeping her in our homes. The house was sold and finances ran low.

As I looked into her far away eyes, sensing the heaviness of my own, I was struck by her willingness to be lead anywhere in a simple, child-like manner. Trusting everyone, believing anything, this child-mother of mine seemed at peace in the face of not even recognizing who I am.

Reaching out and raising funds
During the course of my fundraising, I reached out to everyone I knew and could remember— high school classmates, military companions, colleagues from different careers, clients I work for, family, friends and total strangers.

I wore my The Longest Day t-shirt everywhere, encouraging conversation. I solicited help from family and friends, and promoted my goal in social media, the newspaper and at community colleges.  I told my story on a handout and on a donation form. I had handouts wherever I went. I even took time to sit in a shopping mall on a community services day.

Most importantly, I offered people a chance to honor and memorialize their loved ones by promising to take their name to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro and leaving a steel tube that would last for eons on the top of the mountain.

At the top, honoring loved ones lost to Alzheimer’sSONY DSC
As I hike for the next seven hours towards the summit, I not only remember my mother and grandmother, but also the 47
other names I have printed on a scroll. I speak aloud their name and let the breeze carry it from the mountain top. I will be at the summit soon, and I will bury this scroll within a tube under some rocks in a hollow, out of sight. There it will stay for hundreds of years, in memory and honor of our loved ones, just that much closer to the heart and hands of God.

I love you, Mom.

About the blog author: Bernie Buckley  is coupling his interest of hiking with “doing something with a purpose.” His team “Climb 4 Alzheimer’s” honors his mom who had Alzheimer’s. He is trekking up Mt. Kilimanjaro, and his siblings are climbing mountains where they live. They are all helping to raise awareness and funds in Alzheimer’s Association The Longest Day®, a sunrise-to-sunset event to honor those living with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers.

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