On December 21st, I determined that I would spend a month on hiatus from social media.
I can guarantee that I’ve missed you more than you’ve missed me, and while I’ve really enjoyed the break, I’m very happy to be back!
In my last post I promised a big announcement, and I am quite eager to follow through.
But like every big moment in the movies or on TV, I need to work up to it…
Almost exactly four years ago, I was minding my own business, meeting new friends and fellow football fanatics, and thoroughly enjoying a fabulous Super Bowl Party when unbeknownst to me, my journey as an advocate to end Alzheimer’s disease officially began.
Coach was 7 weeks into his new job as the Head Coach of the University of Tulsa Golden Hurricane Football Team, and the kids and I had been in Tulsa all of two weeks. I still had to use GPS to find my house from a couple of blocks away! To say that I was not yet settled might be the understatement of 2015.
As one can imagine, I was NOT looking for activities, involvements, or community engagement quite yet. But as I am often reminded: my planning means little as I am not the one in control.
As Coach and I were meeting and greeting at the Super Bowl party that afternoon, an innocent soul asked me this very innocent question:
“Is there anything in particular you’d like to get involved with here in Tulsa?”
To which I innocently answered:
“I’m hoping they have an Alzheimer’s Association office close enough that I can help out a little.”
At which point I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder. I turned around to find this super classy, really well-put-together stunner who sweetly informs me:
“I am a member of the Alzheimer’s Association’s Oklahoma Board of Directors. We have a planning meeting on Tuesday morning for the upcoming Memory Gala. I know where you live; I’ll pick you up at 9:30.”
That amazing woman is now a dear friend, and that fated moment put me on a path that I had never envisioned.
In the four years since then, I have chaired an annual luncheon to support AWARE (the Alliance of Women for Alzheimer’s Research and Education) at which we raised over $120,000 to support those affected by Alzheimer’s through clinical trials, care and support groups, and educational events.
I have become a trained Volunteer Speaker through the Alzheimer’s Association and often give educational speeches as well as conduct campaign kickoffs to raise awareness on how groups, organizations, and businesses can make an impact at both a local and national level.
I have even become a member of the Alzheimer’s Association’s Oklahoma Chapter Board of Directors where I serve as the chairman of the Advocacy Committee.
In addition to my personal work, Coach and I served as the Walk to End Alzheimer’s – Tulsa event chairs the past two years.
In that role, we moved the Walk onto the University of Tulsa campus and paired it with Coach’s annual Alzheimer’s Awareness Football Game to create a full day of inspiration and encouragement. We have seen the number of participants increase to nearly 3,000 Tulsans with their friends and family. We have engaged the sports media and boosted visibility for both the event and the mission to create a world without Alzheimer’s disease. And we’ve helped the Tulsa community raise over $2 Million dollars to make that mission a reality.
That journey has been a ton of fun, and I have been blessed by every person and every step along the way. But it has also shown me that I can spin my wheels 100 miles per hour and not actually get anywhere.
If I don’t streamline my efforts a bit, all I become is yet one more person begging for money.
Don’t get me wrong: it’s important, vitally-necessary money. That money is critical in waging this to battle against an atrocious killer. So, rest assured, I will still be asking, pleading, and begging for your donations to support our Walk efforts and TEAM SANDRA JEAN.
But what I realized after these four years is that I want more. I want to be more.
I want to add value to this war instead of just gathering donations for it.
I want to focus my work within my strengths and gifts.
I want to make a big impact and a real difference.
For example, Walk day is one of my favorite days of the year. You will still find me out there – tacky tutu, purple eyelashes, and all!
I truly enjoy public speaking, and I definitely want to do more of that to advance this cause.
I also really love quilting.
Which got me to thinking, How can I use quilting as a platform to advocate for an end to ALZ?
My answer came in an email from the Alzheimer’s Association and a conversation with our Director of Development here in Tulsa who just happens to be a quilter and someone who has also become a close friend over the last four years.
Both pointed me to The Longest Day©
Where the Walk to End Alzheimer’s is a highly structured, chapter-run event that occurs on a very grand scale, The Longest Day is a campaign to promote unique events and activities, orchestrated by individuals all across the world.
As the video shows, there is an activity for everyone: hiking, games, painting, camping, tournaments, dinners, knitting…you name it, and it can be done for The Longest Day.
I will quilt to end ALZ.
And of course, I’d love for you to join me!
I registered my event with the Alzheimer’s Association, started giving some thought to how I might organize the day. Pretty soon, my brain was like a hamster on a wheel, a pinball being batted hither and yon.
The ideas seemed endless…not just a single event on June 21st each year, but also Make & Take quilt classes, Weekly Quilt-Alongs, Block of the Month offerings, shops hops, retreats, workshops, and more all paired with Alzheimer’s awareness and education and available all year long.
The target audience hit me like a ton of bricks.
Two-thirds of those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease are women, and the great majority of quilters are female. And let’s face it, quilters are often the glue; they are caregivers who nurture and tend to all who are in need. These are the folks to whom a family turns when a loved one is diagnosed with ALZ, dementia, or cognitive impairments.
These two demographics are bound to have a ton of overlap.
Not only that, but just imagine the support and encouragement this community can provide for one another!
That train of thought was like the flash of a brilliant light bulb illuminating the whole of my imagination.
In the end, my much-needed focus was found, and Quilt 2 End ALZ is now more than a one-hit wonder. More than a single event on a calendar.
It is a real, tangible thing.
What began as a name for my The Longest Day event has developed into much, much more.
Quilt 2 End ALZ will be a place to find fabric-loving friends and all things “quilty.” It will also be a resource for learning more about Alzheimer’s disease and how we can fight it. The icing on the cake, Quilt 2 End ALZ will be a place filled with motivation and inspiration for all.
I am really looking forward to sharing this new venture with you!
In fact, I am so excited that I’d like to go on and on right here and now, but this blog post is quickly turning into a short story which will undoubtedly roll into a full-fledged novel if I don’t tap the breaks.
For now, please bookmark my Quilt 2 End ALZ website: www.Quilt2EndALZ.org
And follow Quilt to End ALZ on social media:
It’s great to be back!
With love and hugs,