Junior Board New Member Spotlight: Marisa Breese

Marisa Breese is one of the Junior Board’s newest members who worked to help put on their largest annual event, Paint the Night Purple. The evening was packed with activities- from appetizers and an open bar, live music, silent auction, raffles, and dancing! This night was a huge success and helps inform the Junior Board on ideas for next year’s event.

Marisa works in Public Relations for an agency in Chicago, has a 5-year-old Shepherd Collie mix named Harlow, and is a PADI certified open water scuba diver. When she isn’t spending time with her friends, playing volleyball, or traveling, Marisa is an active volunteer for the Junior Board. 

“Hi, I’m Marisa! I first started volunteering alongside the Junior Board in February 2019 after looking up ways to get involved with advocacy and fundraising efforts related to Alzheimer’s. On my first outing with the Junior Board, we visited Sunrise Lincoln Park – a senior living community that specializes in memory care. We chatted casually with the residents, and another Junior Board member brought art supplies to create Valentine’s Day cards. Even though we were there for only a short time, I really enjoyed being able to have a positive impact on the residents.

I was inspired to find a group like this because I felt a personal connection to the cause. My maternal grandmother, Margot Gardiner (Gramma to me)  is currently living with the disease. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2017. At the time, there were only hints of the disease – she would misplace items or forget conversations. Treatment has helped keep the disease somewhat under control, but I still see a difference in her mannerisms and how she interacts with our family now. She’s always been the best grandparent – she used to be an amazing cook and seamstress, and she and my Papa (who’s taken on new roles to care for her) still try to attend every choir show, dance recital, sporting event, etc. that my cousins and I have been part of. It’s definitely been difficult for us to watch her gradually change, though, because of this awful disease. Her diagnosis is what prompted me to get involved with the Junior Board.

 I’ve really enjoyed my time with the Junior Board over the past year. In the past year, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting other young professionals who all have a connection to this terrible disease, so we’re all very passionate about making an impact. So far, I’ve had the opportunity to volunteer several times at Sunrise Lincoln Park and once at Memory Rock Chicago (an annual fundraising event), and I joined the Junior Board’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s team this past October.

I was so excited to officially attend our Paint the Night Purple gala for the first time this year! I worked at the coat check as a volunteer last year, so this year was a chance to spend time with friends, family, and fellow Junior Board members at the event.”

Interested in our Junior Board? To submit an application, visit here.

Why I Paint The Night Purple

By: Sydney Church

This will be my fourth Paint the Night Purple event I am attending as a board member. This event is so special to me because it is an opportunity to pay tribute to my loved ones who are, or were, affected by Alzheimer’s.

I got involved in this cause originally because of my grandmother on my father’s side. She passed away from Alzheimer’s when I was only 8 years old. Being so young, I was so confused by Alzheimer’s and dementia in general. I couldn’t understand how someone could not know or remember who you are, especially their own children and grandchildren. It was very traumatizing to me and extremely upsetting to our whole family. Even years later my family on my father’s side hasn’t quite been the same. I will never forget the way I felt after visiting my grandmother, we called her Nanny, shortly before she passed, and that was the main reason I vowed to one day get involved in this cause- not only to better understand it, but to help find a treatment or prevention to one day end this awful heart-wrenching disease.

Within this past year, my grandmother on my mother’s side has taken a turn for the worse. She has trouble remembering things, and it seems to be getting progressively worse. As she lives in Ohio and I’m in Chicago, I don’t get to see her as often as I’d like, but every time I go home I make sure to see her and my grandfather and help them with getting groceries, cleaning, or driving them to doctor’s appointments – whatever is needed.

I participate in the Junior Board and with this event because it’s one positive side of all this gloom and heartbreak. It’s also the biggest event the Junior Board puts on and our big night to raise funds for the Alzheimer’s Association Illinois Chapter, which goes to research and finding a cure to end Alzheimer’s once and for all. 

I love PTNP because it’s a seamless event. Everyone who has a hand in this event is so impressive and so hard working, and no one is doing it for the credit, but rather because this cause means so much to them and they want to do their part. Each and every year I’m more impressed by the event and so thankful to be a part of it. I’ve convinced many friends and colleagues to attend and each and every one of them has said they look forward to attending next year’s event and that they can’t wait. It’s also a fun excuse to dress up and drink champagne, while also doing good and giving back to the community.

Tickets to the Junior Board’s largest annual event can be found here