“A grandmother is something special. Sometimes we don’t realize that until they are gone,” shares longtime Alzheimer’s Association supporter Kari-Ann Ryan. Her grandmother “Nani” lived with Alzheimer’s disease for almost fifteen years until she passed away in 2016. Kari-Ann has been fighting against the disease ever since.
“My grandmother was all about her family,” says Kari-Ann. “A normal Saturday for me as a child would include spending the day with my grandmother either cleaning her house with her, or a full day of shopping, lunch and more shopping.
“Nani was a beautiful, unselfish, caring, loving, individual who put many things above herself…We all came first in her eyes.”
Kari-Ann helped care for Nani during her fifteen-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease. Kari-Ann says she “mourned my grandmother’s death years ago” as she progressed into the later stages of the disease.
“I tried to be strong every step of the way because all I could hear was Nani telling me, ‘Please stop crying Kari-Ann, it will all be ok. It is going to be ok.’
“So I ask, how does someone with so much to give deserve to be stripped of herself, her memories, her personality, her love?”
This is where Kari-Ann’s record-breaking Walk to End Alzheimer’s story begins.
She started team Lost Souls in 2009 in an effort to control an otherwise uncontrollable situation. Kari-Ann first walked in the Naperville Walk to End Alzheimer’s, and increased her involvement to become the Chair of the Northwest Suburban Walk for many years.
Beyond her personal volunteerism, fundraising and efforts to raise awareness, she captains team Lost Souls—the second highest fundraising team in the state! Over the past 7 years, they have raised almost $250,000 for Alzheimer’s care, support and research.
“We have nothing if we do not have our memories and experiences,” Kari-Ann shares. “I fight so no one else has to go through what I went through as a granddaughter. I fundraise so no other daughter or son has to watch their mother or father forget who they are and the things they have experienced together. I share my story so people know they are not alone.”
Kari-Ann and Team Lost Souls host events throughout the year to raise money and awareness. Their efforts include hosting baseball games, restaurant fundraisers, t-shirt sales, virtual bourbon tastings, raffles and motorcycle runs.
Most recently, Kari-Ann partnered with Studio 19 in Schaumburg to promote a purple hair extension fundraiser in honor of National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. Half of all purple hair extension sales go towards Kari-Ann’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s fundraising.
Whether it’s partnering with local businesses, recruiting family and friends or leading a committee of passionate volunteers, Kari-Ann is an invaluable champion in the fight to end Alzheimer’s. As Kari-Ann says, “Together a cure is in sight.”