Wednesday Awareness: A Sea of Purple

Before I begin our #Walk2EndALZ wrap-up, I want to say a quick thank you to Kelly Hines, TU Sportswriter for the Tulsa World, for helping us bring awareness to ending Alzheimer’s disease with a great piece that was included in her “TU Notebook” column today: $30,000 for a Good Cause.  We are quite lucky to have a supportive sports writing community here in Tulsa which is definitely not always the case in college towns; we appreciate media personalities like Kelly and John Moss and many others taking the time to get to know us as more than “Coach Montgomery & Co.” Their support of our fight against Alzheimer’s is very much appreciated!

The Tulsa Walk to End Alzheimer’s was fantastic!!

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A Beautiful Sea of Purple

MawMaw and SonShine

MawMaw and SonShine

Angel Girl and Momma

Angel Girl and her Momma

The kids and I, along with MawMaw, layered up on a beautiful, sunny, crisp Oklahoma morning and headed out to Guthrie Green with about 5,000 fellow walkers.  The set up this year was a blast – kudos to whomever came up with the party bead idea!

The Alzheimer’s Association has a foundation of 5 guiding pillars:

  1. Concern & Awareness
  2. Advocacy
  3. Care & Support
  4. Accelerate Research
  5. Grow Revenue

Each of these pillars was represented with a different color of party beads at the Walk last Saturday.  We had a ton of fun collecting each color by visiting different information booths.  It was truly a clever way to direct such a wonderful crowd throughout the event grounds!

I am proud to report that all four of us succeeded in getting all five colors of beads, we visited with friends (both new and old) while exploring the tables, and even got a super cute picture for my scrapbook:

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When the program began, I took my place on stage with my SonShine and Angel Girl by my side.  I was tasked with sharing a personal – and inspirational – story.  I certainly did not want to be a “downer” on such a fun occasion, but the fact of the matter is that Alzheimer’s is a downer.  I decided on a story about Coach’s mom, Sandra; here is that story and the first part of my script:

ASHLI:

Hi, everyone!  I am so happy to be here with you this morning!!  Coach sends his “hello” and wishes he could be here, too.  But he is preparing for our Homecoming game this afternoon so instead he send his greetings as well as our two kids.

Many of you may have heard that this cause is personal for us.  Philip’s mom, Sandra, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease just a few years ago.  You’ve never met a sweeter, kinder woman!  It has been really tough watching this disease take its toll.  Just last month she was in town for our first football game of the season and something tiny happened – something that probably only Philip and I noticed.  But it was something that served as a huge indicator of just how ravishing this disease can be. 

Sandra was raised the oldest daughter of a preacher.  She then married a preacher.  She has served the Lord and the church her entire life.  Over the course of 73 years, I would estimate that she has taken communion more than 3,200 times.  But on Sunday, September 4th, when Philip held the communion cups out for her to take one, she looked up at him with blankness and confusion in her eyes.  He went on to hand her one, and still she looked to him, unsure of what to do.  Finally, he helped her drink the juice, and in that moment we both felt a sharp stab of helplessness.  Helplessness and deep sadness that something so important and so personal to her was lost.  We don’t want to lose our Nana!

That is why we walk in her honor today; we are Team Sandra Jean!

I went on to accept a challenge from this year’s Walk chairman to raise an additional $100 to my Walk campaign before Thanksgiving, so if you meant to donate but didn’t get around to it, there is still time.  Click here to go to our Team Sandra Jean website to give a gift online:  TEAM SANDRA JEAN.

And finally, I finished my speech with lots of cheers and a huge invitation:

We are standing here today because we truly believe that the end of Alzheimer’s starts with us. I can tell by looking out into this sea of purple that we are not in this alone. Who’s ready to put a stop to this devastating disease?

[PAUSE FOR AUDIENCE CHEERS]

Let’s let all of Tulsa know that we’re here today to lead the way to the end of Alzheimer’s!

[APPLAUSE/CHEERS]

WOW – You all sound great!  So great that I can easily imagine you all cheering loudly from the stands at H.A. Chapman Stadium!  In fact, we would like to invite each and every one of you to a very special TU football game on November 5th. For the second year in a row, Coach and his Golden Hurricane will host an Alzheimer’s Awareness Game.  We have created this special edition t-shirt for the event, and we want to see you wearing one as you cheer just like that – or maybe even louder – at the game.  Best of all, the proceeds from all the t-shirt sales will be donated to the Alzheimer’s Association. You can go to TulsaWalk.org to get more information about purchasing your special edition t-shirt & tickets for the game!

We can’t wait to see you all there!

THANK YOU for being here – THANK YOU for walking today – and THANK YOU for supporting this fight to end Alzheimer’s!

My precious models on stage did a terrific job of showing off our November 5th game shirt!  The shirts are now available at the TU Campus Corner Bookstore at 11th Street and Harvard.  Please run by and pick yours up today!

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In love and hugs on a Wonderful Wednesday,

Ashli

Wednesday Awareness: Keep Walking

When Angel Girl was born – wayyyy back in the year 2000 – our sweet neighbors gave SonShine a baby gift: Silly Sing-Along 2 ~ The End of Silliness?

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It was our first introduction to Veggie Tales, and it was a lifesaver! At the ripe old age of 27 months, SonShine figured out how to turn on the TV all by himself.  It was one of those fabulous, monstrous, console televisions that Coach bought refurbished at a used appliance store when he was in college…it was 30 years old if it was a day. But it sat right on the ground with the VCR on top, and if he tip-toed just right, SonShine could reach high enough to pop in his new movie which comprised of a random selection of Silly Songs with Larry. It was perfect to entertain him when I was feeding Angel Girl or rocking her to sleep.  Let’s just say that Coach and I know – still to this very day – every single silly song with Larry.

One of my favorites from that video is “Keep Walking.”  I love the message, the lyrics, and the tune, and for some reason it pops into my head anytime I think about our upcoming Walk to End Alzheimer’s (which takes place this Saturday, October 22nd at Tulsa’s Guthrie Green).  I’ve been told that the Pre-Walk Ceremony is really something to behold, and I can only imagine how powerful a statement thousands of us “purpled-out” and pounding the pavement together will feel as we walk to end Alzheimer’s.  I am extra excited to participate in this year’s walk because both my kiddos are able to join me!

Just like in Larry’s Silly Song, I feel called to keep walking, to raise awareness, encourage others, and make every effort possible to be a light of hope and possibility for a cure to this fatal disease.

Coach and I have been working with the Oklahoma Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association to do all those things, and we have been positively blown away by how supportive and generous all of our family and friends have been in this work.  Last month, we ran a one-week campaign to raise money for this year’s Tulsa Walk to End Alzheimer’s with a pledge of matching up to $10,000 in donations.  I sent an email letting everyone know about the matching gift program, the Oklahoma Chapter promoted the challenge locally, and the story was even picked up by the national Alzheimer’s Association.

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Each night that week, Coach and I would scroll through the donations that were coming in, and each night we were overwhelmed with the love and support we received with every gift.  The outpouring was simply beautiful!

At the end of that week, $19,550 had been donated, and Coach and I very happily handed over our matching $10,000.  That is unbelievable!!  Together we raised just under $30K in only 7 days.  THANK YOU – THANK YOU – THANK YOU!

As you all know we are walking on Saturday in honor of Coach’s mom, Sandra.  Our team name is “Sandra Jean” and our goal – our prayer – is threefold:

  1. Raise the funds needed to conduct the research necessary to find a cure and an end to ALZ,
  2. Support patients, caregivers, and healthcare workers who are fighting this monster every day.
  3. Save our Nana.

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We would love to have you join our team, either in Tulsa on Saturday or online as a virtual walker.  Our team building doesn’t end when we finish the walk this weekend, so log on and jump in:  TEAM SANDRA JEAN!

With love and hugs and an extra huge THANK YOU to all who supported this year’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s,

Ashli

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Negative Recruiting & My Presidential Plea

“Whoever is not with me is against me…” Luke 11:23

In Biblical terms, I totally get this scripture. In our daily rat race of “me versus the world,” I soooooo get this. In the 2016 race for a President of the United States, I do not get this.

With election day looming, I am not WITH anyone. And I want to be. I really, really do. I want a candidate – any living, breathing, eligible, American candidate – to show me why I should be WITH them.

So far, however, all I have seen is what in the world of college football we call “Negative Recruiting.” This is a very common practice where coaches (the recruiters) tell prospective players (the recruits) and their families why they should NOT attend ABC, LMN, and every other school showing interest but fail to ever communicate why that student-athlete SHOULD attend their own school, XYZ.

It goes like this…

  • Recruit: Do you think you can use me as a quarterback in your system?
  • Recruiter: Well, Son, I know that ABC is saying they will let you play QB, but trust me, they’re also talking to So&So, and they’re telling him the same thing. You don’t want to go there and experience that!
  • Recruit’s Mom: Coach, tell me about the tutoring and mentoring available for your players.
  • Recruiter: Now, Momma, I know you like the academics at LMN, but be careful – they have a reputation for being extra tough on their athletes. And while I know his education is your top priority, we don’t want to set him up to fail.

And so on, and so on, blah, blah, blah.

The coaches absolutely refuse to answer the very straight-forward questions that the recruit and his family have asked.  This stuff drives me crazy! And it drives Coach crazy, too, so he emphasizes to his staff in no uncertain terms to avoid negative recruiting at all costs. I’ve heard him say many times, “I can’t comment on anyone else’s program, but this is what we are doing/building/creating right here…”

That’s what I am desperate to hear from these presidential candidates. I want them to flat-out, in no uncertain terms, decline to sling mud at ANYONE in our country (and beyond!), and I want them to actually ANSWER THE QUESTIONS that are asked of them.

Our son turned 18 last June, so this is a huge election in our house: SonShine’s first opportunity to vote. And SonShine is serious about his civic duty and his role as an American; I would even call him a “patriot” as he has a deep love for this country, it’s history and accomplishments, and he has a strong desire to see it flourish. He and I, along with his little sister, watched every single second of the last debate together, hopeful that either candidate would give us a reason to join their camp.

Question #1: The last presidential debate could’ve been rated as MA—mature audiences—per TV parental guidelines. Knowing that educators are tying the presidential debates to student homework, do you feel you are modeling appropriate and positive behavior for today’s youth?

Seems like a pretty direct, “Yes or No” type question to me.  I can only assume as neither candidate was willing to answer “Yes” or “No” that they are either incapable of comprehending the question (that’s what my students would do when I asked something over their heads…) or they, too, are horribly embarrassed by the debacle that has become this election season so they avoided an answer, even one as simple as “Yes” or “No.”

Needless to say, at the completion of the debate, we were none the wiser.  My Angel Girl stood up from the couch announcing, “Well that was pretty childish and made very little sense,” and my SonShine was even less sure which candidate is worth trusting with his vote.

Mr. Trump wants to “Make America Great Again.”  FABULOUS – so do I!  My vision of a great America is stunningly beautiful, it’s vivid, and it is very real, not hypothetical.  Mr. Trump, what is your vision of a “Great America” and how, in actual steps and action items, will you create that vision for our country?  What are your ideas as well as your ideals?  With less than a month left before Election Day, I have no idea what our country will look like when you become our leader.  You have not yet described to me this picture you see of a great America.  You’ve told me everything that is wrong with your opponent, you’ve told me everything that is wrong with lots of things, but you have not yet told me what is good in your plan.  And I want specifics.  I need details.  I beg of you, Mr. Trump: please show me what YOU CAN DO rather than what she can not.

Mrs. Clinton says we can be “Stronger Together.”  I WOULD LOVE THAT!  I can close my eyes and imagine a country that acts like a community, a family, a group that cares for one another, people who have each other’s backs through thick and thin.  That image in my head is stunningly beautiful, it’s vivid, and it is very real, not hypothetical.  Mrs. Clinton, how does “Together” make us “Stronger” and how does it look in your vision?  How will you take us from where we stand today – a land tragically divided – to this imaginary place of unity?  What are your ideas as well as your ideals?  I like your dream, but as of October 17th, I have no idea what this land will look like when you become our leader.  I know you detest your opponent, I know you are very talented at dodging and diverting, but I do not know what is good in your plan.  Again, I want specifics.  I need details.  I beg of you, Mrs. Clinton:  please show me what YOU CAN DO rather than how horrible a person you find him to be.

I am a 42-year old, Caucasian female.  I describe myself as having Republican values and a Democrat’s heart.  I am on the fence here.  I want someone to follow, someone to root for, and someone to admire.  I NEED someone to sell me on themselves as opposed to negatively recruiting the competition because we HAVE TO pick someone for whom to vote on November 8th.

Up to this point, you have both presented many valid reasons to NOT vote for either one of you.  Over these next 3 weeks, someone – ANYONE – please prove to me why I SHOULD vote for you…I am hearing it from everyone else all over the Internet, but I want to hear it from YOU.  Please.

Furthermore, here are a few tips for you on how to accomplish this task should you choose to accept it:

  1. Adamantly refuse to say anything negative.  It’s that simple – just don’t do it.  There are more than enough ways to explain oneself using positive words and angles, so utilize them.
  2. Talk ONLY about your plans, your programs, and your vision.  Do not ever speak about anyone else’s program, campaign, history, choices, or life.  It’s none of your affair.  You are here to tell me about YOU and only YOU.
  3. Treat these next few weeks as a 21-day college admissions interview in which you are up against yourself and are ignorant to anyone else applying for the same spot.  Share your strengths, illustrate your gifts, explain your potential, but do not reflect poorly upon yourself by disparaging or putting down others as it makes you appear petty, unoriginal, and unqualified for the job which you seek.

I think if either of you, or anyone else wanting a place on this platform, will follow these simple steps, I – as well as millions of other desperate, yet hopeful, Americans – will be in your corner.  We will “bubble in” your name, and we will support you for the next four years (wouldn’t that be a novel idea!).

Ask the head coach of any sport how to sell a program, ask them the importance of winning the press conference, ask them how vital “buy in” is to creating something great.  Ask them how successful negative recruiting is in the end.  They will tell you exactly what I am saying:  it is all on YOU to prove to us that YOU are worth having.

Each American’s vote is a gift of confidence.  It is priceless, and it represents something far grander, far more beautiful and meaningful than any one person.  If you want my vote, prove it.

In love and hugs, and in prayer for our glorious land,

Ashli

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PS: In the next debate, when a speaker brings up anything NOT about their own campaign, a bell (think the huge one on The Gong Show) will sound so loudly that it will drown out the words that are not relevant to the discussion, and that person surrenders the floor immediately.

 

TU-gether we WILL

I am soooooooo, sooooooooo excited to share this t-shirt with the world!!

Yes, it is “just” a t-shirt, but to me it is GOLDEN.

As in Golden Hurricane.

As in Golden Hurricane Awesome!

Last year Coach designated his “Faith, Family, and Football” game as an Alzheimer’s Awareness event.  Our Sports Marketing Department did a phenomenal job working with the Alzheimer’s Association to create a fun, engaging afternoon that helped spread the word that Alzheimer’s patients, caregivers, and researchers need our attention.

Even before the success of that day, we knew we wanted to make it a tradition, and the positive feedback and experiences of that game sealed the deal…

November 5, 2016

This year our “Faith, Family, and Football” game falls on Saturday, November 5th.  Again, it will also serve as a day to raise awareness to #ENDALZ.  This year, however, we are hosting a purple team, so instead of painting H.A. Chapman purple, we are wearing blue and shining a bright, golden light on Alzheimer’s with this totally fabulous t-shirt:

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These are only guaranteed for two weeks, so please go online TODAY and place your order:  TUgetherWeWillENDALZ2016

After October 24th, there will be limited number of shirts available at the TU Bookstore and at H.A. Chapman Stadium on gameday November 5th.

Both adult and youth sizes are available for $10 each, and the profit from each shirt sold will be donated back to the Alzheimer’s Association.  (The more we sell, the greater the percentage of profit per shirt, thus the greater the donation, so buy, buy, buy!! And then buy for friends and neighbors, too!)

Even if you can not make it to Tulsa for the game, please consider purchasing a few to support your Golden Hurricane with an incredible new shirt, support Coach in his dedication to bring awareness to the devastating truth of Alzheimer’s Disease, and most importantly support an end to ALZ.

With love and hugs,

Ashli

Wednesday Awareness: Tulsa People October “Volunteer Spotlight”

Coach and I are very honored to be featured in the October 2016 issue of Tulsa People!

The photo used in the article is one of my favorites.  It was taken at last February’s Memory Gala here in Tulsa, which just happened to be my first time ever using Rent the Runway.

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I have to say it was a success:  the dress was just as described in a beautiful plum-ish purple, and it actually fit really well.  I paired it with a set of pearls that were a gift from my dad, a vintage bracelet that was a gift from my sister, and my diamond tennis bracelet that was a gift from Coach.  Obviously, I am very well-gifted!!

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Of course, it helps to have a hunky date and gorgeous friends to compliment my efforts, and I am blessed with all of those as well!

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Needless to say, it was a fun and fabulous evening!  How special to see this photo again all these months later and remember it like it was yesterday.  In fact, the reason we were there was to help more people remember more treasured times.  It’s a cause we are still supporting as the need is greater than ever…

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Click on the link all the way above at the top of the page to see the online edition of this month’s magazine, and read below for the “rest of the story” – these are the unused questions and answers to further shed light on why this fight to #ENDALZ is so important to us:

2016 Tulsa Walk to End Alzheimer’s Questions

Years involved in the Alzheimer’s Association: 2 years

Alzheimer’s Association Mission Statement: To eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health.

Although you both have been selected as Celebrity Team Captains for this year’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s, what are any additional personal reasons for your involvement?

Like most people, Alzheimer’s has touched our family in multiple ways.  Both of us have lost grandmothers to Alzheimer’s, and Philip’s mom is currently fighting the disease.  It is a tragic, heartbreaking disease!  We have witnessed the destruction and devastation Alzheimer’s causes, and we feel very strongly that a cure must be found.  The Walk to End Alzheimer’s is crucial to supporting research and patients, but also caregivers.  We are finding that the role of caregiver is a terribly difficult job, and one that is tough to understand until one serves in that capacity.  We want to assist in this uphill battle as much as possible.  We feel honored to serve as Celebrity Team Captains and hope that we are able to raise awareness and financial support for this essential cause. 

Explain how the funds collected for this year’s Walk will be used.

All funds raised through Walk to End Alzheimer’s further the care, support and research efforts of the Alzheimer’s Association. There are currently 62,000 Oklahomans living with Alzheimer’s disease and 222,000 serving as their unpaid caregivers. While there is no cure for this disease yet, the Alzheimer’s Association is dedicated to helping families navigate the difficult journey with free resources made possible by donations made through events like The Walk to End ALZ.

Tell us how Tulsans can participate in this year’s Walk.

Tulsans can join our team, start a team of their own, walk as an individual participant, become a virtual walker, or volunteer to help with the event. Registration for The Walk is free, but everyone is encouraged to raise the $100 required to get an official T-shirt!  Please do not hesitate to reach out to the Alzheimer’s Association if you have any questions or need help getting signed up to participate.

As Celebrity Team Captains, do you still have room on your personal team?

Yes!! Our team name is “Team Sandra Jean” in honor of Philip’s mom.  We would love to have as many participants as possible in our group.  There is no size limit for teams, so anyone can join! Just search for our team name at tulsawalk.org or set up a team in honor of a loved one, your company, a group of friends, or maybe your church.  The more teams, the better!  The website makes it incredibly easy for team captains to build their team and promote their fundraising efforts.  The tools to make invitations, to send reminders about The Walk, and to create social media posts are all very user-friendly.  We make sure to utilize these applications and are thrilled at how our family and friends across the country support us by donating online even if they are not able to be here in Tulsa for the actual event.

Even as a busy Tulsa couple, why is volunteering important to you? Has volunteering always been a family affair?

It is true what they say: the greatest gifts in serving others are received by the givers and volunteers.  We feel blessed beyond measure, and we are inspired by those we meet along the way!  We have also been the recipients of many peoples’ support and assistance over the years, so we know first-hand that a little bit of help can be life-changing!  For these reasons, volunteer work has always been important to both of us, and we definitely treat it as a family affair.  We have been quite intentional about teaching our two children that to be successful in anything, one must have a servant’s heart.  In sharing that lesson of giving with them, we have beautiful memories of family time spent serving, working for others, and enjoying many events like The Walk to End Alzheimer’s.  Those are hours that we treasure and hold close to our hearts with a very tight grip!

Thank you for reading, and thank you for sharing!  Making “Alzheimer’s Disease” part of our everyday conversations is a huge hurdle in raising awareness and, in turn, creating public demand for advances in our – yes, this battle involves us all – fight to END ALZ.

With love and hugs,

Ashli

PS:  Please consider joining the movement today by visiting www.alz.org/mybrain1