Sowing the seeds of awareness with ALZ Stars

“Working here has humbled me,” shares Randy Hauser of his job at ClarkLindsey retirement community. As horticulturist at the Champaign-Urbana facility, he has seen many residents journey through Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Randy decided to honor the ClarkLindsey residents and raise awareness for the disease by running the 2022 Bank of America Chicago Marathon on team ALZ Stars.

As an outgoing member of the ClarkLindsey team, Randy has gotten to know many residents – especially those who share his love of gardening. Many people are eager to interact with him as he works around the community grounds. “People are drawn to it,” he shares. The opportunity to interact with him was particularly valuable at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when indoor socializing was at a minimum. 

ALZ Star athlete Randy kneels in front of bright yellow, white and pink tulips on a sunny day outside at ClarkLindsey.

Through his work, Randy met many individuals impacted by Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Some started in the independent living setting, then slowly needed around-the-clock support in the memory care center. The speed at which the disease progressed shocked him. “I was amazed at how fast those stages can happen,” he says. 

Randy hosts a number of programs for memory care residents at ClarkLindsey, including “Planting the Seeds.” He has residents scatter zinnia seeds, then watch as the bright blossoms grow over time. For Randy, if that program can bring even a bit of light and color to the memory care center, his job has been worth it. 

Randy plans to raise awareness and funds for the Alzheimer’s Association by running the 2022 Bank of America Chicago Marathon on team ALZ Stars. His employer ClarkLindsey is an annual sponsor of Walk to End Alzheimer’s – Champaign/Urbana, and Randy is using his love of running to further support the fight against the disease.

“I call myself a ‘hack runner,’” Randy says jokingly. “Most people don’t expect me to have run around the block, let alone a marathon.” He says if he can run long-distance, anyone can run long-distance.

Randy began running on a smaller scale, starting with 5K races. He eventually progressed past 10Ks and half marathons to his first full marathon in 2012. He hopes to run twenty marathons total and is already well on his way. This year’s Chicago Marathon will be his twelfth 26.2 mile race — his fifth one in Chicago. 

“I’m not a running purist,” Randy says. He isn’t interested in finishing times or placing first. Instead, running is meditative for him. It’s also a way of “being with” his dad, who he lost suddenly to a heart attack a decade ago. 

This is Randy’s first year running with a team in the marathon’s Charity Program. “I wanted to make it about something bigger than me,” he shares. “I’m 58, very healthy and very lucky…I’m excited for my little thing to be part of a big thing.” Experienced and novice athletes alike run with team ALZ Stars. They raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for Alzheimer’s care, support and research every year. 

Randy enjoys the Chicago Marathon because of the excitement and support from the crowd. Spectators typically gather along the entire route, cheering runners and offering words of encouragement. While the crowds cheer him on, Randy also wants to offer them something: he wants people to see his ALZ Stars singlet and inquire about the Alzheimer’s Association. He hopes people will visit alz.org to learn more about the Alzheimer’s crisis in America. Hopefully, some attendees will find the resources and support they need because of him.

Randy recently completed a half marathon in Champaign/Urbana to kickstart his marathon training. He continues long runs to prepare for the 26.2 miles in Chicago on October 9. He plans to run future marathons as part of the ALZ Stars team. With every step he takes, Randy is moving us towards our vision of a world without Alzheimer’s and all other dementia.

Limited entries for ALZ Stars are still available. Visit act.alz.org/alzstars2022 to sign-up.

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