We all have them. Moments from our childhood that stick with us. Of course, some stick with us more than others. They are part of the narrative documenting our journey through life; the stories that create the adults we become.

Growing up, my brother and I spent a lot of time with two of my cousins. We were all two years apart. Brian and I occupied the middle, bookended by Larry at the older end and my younger brother, Greg, at the other. Their mom, my aunt Kathy, was a prominent character in my narrative.

 

Aunt Kathy_3

 

Aunt Kathy is the reason I never took up smoking. “You think it looks cool? Try it.” We were sitting around the wooden table in her kitchen. That was the first and last time I put mouth to cigarette. A teaching moment in my personal narrative.

I don’t think I ever saw her not smiling or laughing. Except for the afternoon Brian and I didn’t tell her we were going for a walk and her car pulled up behind us on Asbury Road a few miles from the house. That was definitely a moment.

Even as Alzheimer’s took over her life at a way too early age, she found a way to smile. I saw it in the photos my parents took visiting her over the years she lived with this horrible disease. I saw it in the photos my cousins posted to Facebook (where the images from this post came from). My aunt Kathy passed away on July 2, 2014. She was 68 years old.

 

Aunt Kathy_2

 

Her role in my narrative is why I jumped at the chance a little over a month ago to help the Dementia Society of America build and promote a program to raise awareness around dementia and brain health.

More than 6,000,000 people in the U.S. live with a form of dementia. 1 in 9 people age 65 and older live with a form of dementia. 1 in 3 U.S. seniors will die with dementia. Dementia is the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S. Alzheimer’s and CTE are two of 10 types of dementia

On May 7th, we’re kicking off a grassroots challenge called Step2Raise. People from across the nation will register their FitBits and other health trackers to walk a combined 6 million steps — enough to virtually walk across America — over the 44 day period between Mother’s Day weekend and Father’s Day.

What makes this challenge different than others is that it’s not a fundraiser. There is no financial or fundraising commitment asked of participants. You just need to register and walk.

Walk a mile, walk 10,000 steps. Every step counts.

The all-volunteer, non-profit Dementia Society of America is underwritten through the generosity of individual donations and corporate supporters. 100% of any donations that come into the organization during Step2Raise will go directly into a program called Ginny Gives Grants. The program was created to enhance the quality of life for those living with dementia, their caregivers, and the public at-large, by underwriting events and activities in places like nursing homes and continuing care residential communities. It accomplishes this by providing small grants to musicians, artists, therapists and performers. This year alone, Ginny Gives Grants recipients delivered life-enriching art, music, movement and touch programs to more than 600 people living with dementia.

The Ginny Gives program was created to honor the life of Dementia Society of America founder Kevin Jameson’s wife, Ginny, who died shortly after my aunt Kathy after a valiant struggle with dementia. I recently interviewed Kevin to learn more about Ginny and her namesake program. You can here her story in his own words below.

 

 

Like my aunt Kathy, Kevin and Ginny have become part of my own narrative. If you have a fitness tracker, I encourage you to register and support this valuable program to help those living with dementia (and share it with your family and friends on Facebook).

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