ALZ Star discovers passion for running, mental health

Washington state athlete Zoe Yoshinari has a goal of running all six Abbott World Marathon Majors – that’s over 157 miles! She will be halfway to accomplishing her dream when she crosses the finish line at the 2022 Bank of America Chicago Marathon. Zoe is running with team ALZ Stars, the Alzheimer’s Association’s charity team, on Sunday, October 9. Having watched her grandmother’s journey with dementia, Zoe is making her miles matter for a cause that is close to her heart.

Zoe joined ALZ Stars in honor of her grandmother, who lived with Multi-infarct dementia. “My grandmother, Barbara Walton, was a wonderful woman. Mother of four, grandmother of five, devoted wife,” shares Zoe. Barbara ran a hotel in the 60s and 70s while balancing family responsibilities. It brought “a multitude of stresses,” according to Zoe. She believes her grandmother’s job stress may have impacted her dementia.

“I never quite understood it at such an early age. Until I was living in New York in my late twenties,” confides Zoe. She experienced the stress and hustle of city life for the first time. The need to care for her own mental health was incredibly important, especially after seeing the toll that stress took on her grandmother. Zoe found solace in long distance running. 

Running was my daily therapy. It made sense that my mental health, just like my physical health, needed to be taken care of as well as maintained.” 

Her personal love of running grew into a desire to raise awareness around mental health. She found that caring for her mental health was just as important as her physical health, and she wanted to share the discovery with others.

“Completing my first marathon in New York in 2007 seemed like a natural evolution,” she shares. But it didn’t just “mark a check” on her bucket list. Instead, it “ignited a passion to complete the Abbott World Marathon Majors. Six Races. Six Stars. One Dream.” 

“Now 11 years on, at the age of nearly 43, I have the courage to continue working toward that dream,” says Zoe. Since completing the London Marathon in 2011, she is “happily married, a mother to two wonderful children and proud to have established a woman owned business.

“Fear had stalled my momentum but now I’ve found the courage to follow my heart, stand up for my dream and I’m ready to conquer another marathon.”

Zoe is excited to use her next marathon to raise funds and awareness for a disease that impacted her family. She says that running on team ALZ Stars gives her next race extra purpose and meaning. 

ALZ Stars athletes sign-on to raise funds and awareness for the Alzheimer’s Association and receive a limited entry to the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. The 2022 team has 298 athletes, and they already raised over $200,000! Zoe has surpassed her personal fundraising goal – but she isn’t stopping. 

At the beginning of the summer, Zoe and a group of running buddies held a fundraiser in San Diego with phenomenal results. They ran 4 miles every 4 hours in 24 hours, and raised support for an important cause. 

Zoe continues to prepare for 26.2 miles in Chicago this fall. She is getting closer to accomplishing her goal of completing all six Abbott World Marathon Majors, all the while moving us towards a world without Alzheimer’s and all other dementia.

Donate to Zoe’s fundraising page as she prepares for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, and learn more about team ALZ Stars here.

Chicago skyline illuminated purple for Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month

Photo courtesy of Sam Karow

The Chicago skyline was illuminated purple to raise awareness for Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month (June) and The Longest Day. From Monday, June 20 to Friday, June 26, buildings were encouraged to light the signature color of the Alzheimer’s Association and display the slogan “ENDALZ.” The initiative was spearheaded by our Illinois Chapter Concern and Awareness committee in partnership with the Building Owners and Manager Association of Chicago (BOMA). Their Illuminate Chicago Lighting Program was created almost ten years ago to build support for charitable causes. We are grateful for their support as we raise funds and awareness to put an end to Alzheimer’s and all other dementia. 

This year’s participating buildings included the Wrigley Building, Prudential Building and Plaza, United Center, Brittanica Building, Soldier Field, Blue Cross Blue Shield, John Hancock, Willis Tower and Elgin’s 2500 Westfield building. All member buildings had the opportunity to participate and show their support for the fight to end Alzheimer’s.

To learn more about The Longest Day, visit alz.org/TLD
To learn more about Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, visit alz.org/ABAM

Photo courtesy of Sam Karow

Walking, Running, and Advocating for a Cure

Liz Miro isn’t sitting down for Alzheimer’s – she walks, runs and advocates for an end to the disease. Her maternal grandfather is currently living with dementia, and her father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2014. She teams up with the Alzheimer’s Association in multiple capacities to fight for a world without Alzheimer’s and all other dementia.

Liz is a longtime fundraiser with Walk to End Alzheimer’s, participating in the Chicago and North Shore events. She first participated in 2016, two years after her father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. The 2022 Walk to End Alzheimer’s – Chicago takes place at Soldier Field on Saturday, October 8. Events are hosted in communities across the state from September to October. 

“It’s a great fundraiser, but also a way to bond with people who have similar experiences,” Liz shares.

Liz wears her purple ALZ Stars singlet and poses next to her black dog.

She even gets her four-legged friend involved: for the past six Walks, Liz has brought her dog to Walk alongside her. 

Her involvement doesn’t stop on Walk day. Liz ran the 2019 Bank of America Chicago Marathon on the Alzheimer’s Association charity team, ALZ Stars, and raised close to $2,000. Her fundraising directly supported families facing Alzheimer’s disease and research efforts in Illinois and beyond. 

Liz has also worked with our Public Policy team on various advocacy initiatives. She traveled to Springfield with other volunteer advocates for Illinois Day of Action, where she urged state legislators to support policy priorities that make Illinois a more dementia capable state.

All of these activities are important to Liz because of her personal experience with Alzheimer’s disease. She shares the reality: “There is NO CURE and really, no effective treatment. 

“It’s so heartbreaking because you lose your loved one twice. Grieving someone who is alive is a very unique experience that most people can’t comprehend.”

Join Liz in fighting for care, support, research, and ultimately: a cure for Alzheimer’s and dementia. Register for your local Walk, run 26.2 miles to #ENDALZ on team ALZ Stars, or learn more about our advocacy work.

Fashion fundraiser raises thousands to honor organizer’s mom

“It has been a difficult road to accept the effects of the disease,” shares Dan Brophy of his mother’s condition. She was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease in 2015, but Dan and his family noticed symptoms of her condition years earlier. He honors her by hosting an annual fashion fundraiser with the Alzheimer’s Association.

“My family has learned how to navigate the sharp decline in my mother’s memory,” Dan shares. “Over the years, I have learned how to best interact with my mother by providing smiles and love and not letting the pain control my emotions….People who do not have firsthand experience do not realize the other aspects of life it affects. It is something that cannot be stopped. Accepting that is beyond challenging – to accept the deterioration of a loved one’s memory. Because if we do not have our memories, then what do we have?”

Despite its hardships, Dan values the community that his mother’s Alzheimer’s disease has brought to their lives. “My mom has been living at a memory care facility for 5+ years now,” says Dan. “She has received wonderful care and it has been a blessing to meet others with similar conditions.” Dan found encouragement and support by getting involved with the Alzheimer’s Association. 

Four men wear fun accessories and grey The Longest Day sweatshirts at the 2021 Fall Catalogue Night.
Dan and crew at Fall Catalogue Night 2021

Dan teams up with friends and family to host an annual fundraiser called Fall Catalogue Night, an extravagant fashion event which takes place every autumn in Chicago. “Guests are encouraged to wear their most fashionable attire and attend an evening of live music, auction items, beverages, local art, and community with the goal to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association,” Dan shares. The ninth annual event will be held through The Longest Day, a DIY fundraising program with the Association. It provides a personal fundraising page and year round staff support to guarantee Fall Catalogue Night is successful. 

“The event brings together many friends, some of whom have relatives suffering from Alzheimer’s,” says Dan. The group shares personal stories – both heartfelt and humorous. The event is meant to be “a celebration of life (and fashion)” to uplift attendees while raising critical funds for an urgent cause. Their 2022 goal is to raise over $35,000 for Alzheimer’s care, support and research. 

“Come to Fall Catalogue Night and you will see how fun it is to raise money,” he encourages. “You will also hear from many people about how your money positively impacts those who are suffering.” In addition to hosting his annual fundraiser, Dan participates in Walk to End Alzheimer’s – Chicago. This year, his Walk team has a new member: his new baby daughter. As a new parent, Dan’s fight against Alzheimer’s is more important than ever.

Dan wears a grey The Longest Day sweatshirt while holding his new baby daughter.
Dan and his newest partner in the fight to #ENDALZ

Dan wants to educate more individuals on the Alzheimer’s epidemic. More than 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s. By 2050, this number is projected to rise to nearly 13 million. “It affects so many people,” Dan shares. This should be a worldwide community goal to give everyone access to healthcare and support so they can deal with the emotional toll…It would give me great pleasure to say that my small efforts contributed towards a cure.

Anyone can join the fight for a cure by hosting their own fundraiser with The Longest Day. Whether it’s a lemonade stand, a restaurant give-back night or a large scale fashion show, every dollar raised moves the needle forward. “It should be of utmost importance to get funds for research,” he shares. “The utility that this would bring to the world is immeasurable.” 

Turn an existing event, hobby or passion into a fundraiser for Alzheimer’s. Get started at alz.org/tld. Activities can take place at any point in the year, with many focused around the Summer Solstice (June 21). Join the fight against the darkness of Alzheimer’s with The Longest Day.

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.