Board of Directors | July 2021

The Alzheimer’s Association Illinois Chapter is thrilled to announce the new members of our Board of Directors. The incoming cohort is led by Chair Aimee Nolan, Vice President, Associate General Counsel and Chief Intellectual Property Counsel for W.W. Grainger, Inc.

Incoming Board Chair Aimee Nolan.

Aimee is the Vice President, Associate General Counsel and Chief Intellectual Property Counsel for W.W. Grainger, Inc. She is responsible for providing legal counsel and strategic advice in connection with the company’s technology, digital and eCommerce matters as well as all aspects of Grainger’s Intellectual Property portfolio, including patents, trade secrets, trademarks, copyrights and domain names. Aimee also supports the company’s global product sourcing group, marketing and advertising initiatives, the customer growth strategy and information teams and corporate communications. She is also a leader of Grainger’s enterprise wide efforts on data protection, cyber security, privacy and breach response, and provides legal counsel in connection with its pandemic response efforts.

Aimee is passionate about serving the mission of the Alzheimer Association, Illinois Chapter because her mother Betsy died at the age of 62 from early onset Alzheimer’s. Her mother’s primary caregiver was Aimee’s grandmother, who passed 10 days after her mother’s death. Aimee’s grandmother on her father’s side also passed of Alzheimer’s.

Aimee served as a member of the Illinois Women and Alzheimer Initiative Task Force and served as chair of Illinois Women Conquer ALZ (IWCA) from 2017-2021. She joined the board of the Alzheimer’s Association, Illinois Chapter on July 1, 2017.

Aimee has been an enduring champion of the Alzheimer’s Association, and we look forward to this next chapter in her steadfast leadership.

We are also pleased to welcome six new members to our Board of Directors. This dynamic group will apply their skills and expertise to furthering the mission of the Alzheimer’s Association. We thank them for their commitment to our vision of a world without Alzheimer’s and all other dementia.

The six new members of the IL Chapter Board of Directors.

(Pictured clockwise from top left.)
Lisa Butler – Senior Director, CVS Health
Marta Cerda – CEO, ASI & NE Healthcare
Nick Gialessas – Vice President, Kufman Hall
Marilyn Lissner – Executive Director, Cushman & Wakefield
Nancy Tyrrell – Associate Director, Translational Activities – Chicago Biomedical Consortium
Ray Willis – Retired, most recently served as the Director of Community Planning and Development for the Chicago Office of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

Games for Brains: The Longest Day

Gray Matters Games satisfies two passions for owner Joe Barron: inventing games that support brain health, and fighting to end Alzheimer’s disease.

Joe saw the toll that Alzheimer’s and dementia took in his own family. Both of his grandmothers faced the disease; one grandmother lived with her diagnosis for 12 years. Joe’s family had to make difficult decisions as his grandmothers progressed through the disease. His mom, being one of five children, found it challenging to find agreement with siblings on matters of their mother’s independence, such as her ability to drive.

Joe Barron at Walk to End Alzheimer’s 2017.

Despite the hardships that come while watching a loved one face Alzheimer’s, Joe and his family soaked up the moments they had together singing, dancing, and playing games. At one stage, Joe’s grandmother didn’t remember anyone’s name—but she remembered all the words to songs from her childhood. So, Joe and his family learned the words to a number of songs from the 1940s and 1950s and sang along with her. 

Joe Barron at Junior Board’s annual Paint the Night Purple event in 2018

Joe’s game company Gray Matters Games “promotes community, encourages fun and gives back to Alzheimer’s research.” Games can be a great activity to do with loved ones facing Alzheimer’s or dementia. Playing games helps build new memories and cherish the little moments together. Studies show that keeping your mind active and engaged may delay cognitive decline. Gray Matters Games creates games the whole family can enjoy, along with more challenging strategy games for serious gamers. 

For those who haven’t faced Alzhiemer’s or dementia firsthand, Joe says not to be afraid of reaching out and asking for help. Joe first got involved with the Alzheimer’s Association Illinois Chapter through the Junior Board. He learned about the many free, timely resources available while serving on the board. Since the disease affects over 6 million Americans, Joe says anyone you stop on the street will know someone who has been impacted by the disease. Thankfully, more and more families and businesses are joining the fight for a cure by raising awareness and funds.

Fair Game in Downers Grove, IL,

Today, Joe donates a meaningful portion of Gray Matters Games’ proceeds to the Alzheimer’s Association to fund research and support services. This year, as part of The Longest Day, Joe partnered with Fair Game in Downers Grove, IL to host the Games for Brains event. Eric Brezina of Fair Game and other members of Chicago’s bustling toy and gaming industry joined Joe to fight the darkness of Alzheimer’s disease over summer solstice weekend. The event took place on Saturday, June 19 and included a silent auction, shopping offers, and game inventors as well as entertainers. Companies included Forbidden Games, R2i Games, Fuzzy Logic Escape Rooms, Otrio: Inventor’s Edition, and Mike O’Donnell Handcrafted Magic. 

The Longest Day is all about doing what you love. Joe turned his passion for gaming into a fundraiser to end Alzheimer’s disease in honor of his grandmothers, and for families everywhere. He’s helping us get closer to a cure, one move at a time. 

Learn how to turn your favorite hobby into a fundraiser or get your business involved with The Longest Day at alz.org/tld
Gray Matters Games
Fair Game

Tennis Tribute for Milly

Sarah and her mother, Milly O’Brien.

Sarah O’Brien Boyd will lace up her sneakers and hit the tennis court on Saturday, June 19 to participate in The Longest Day. She will play tennis from sunrise to sunset in Skokie, Illinois, in honor of her mother, Milly O’Brien. 

Milly passed away from Alzheimer’s disease in 2016. She was an extremely active person and was passionate about tennis for almost forty years. Sarah will honor her mother’s legacy this weekend by playing the sport she loved. Sarah’s friends and family will join her on the court to keep her busy all day.

Sarah is the youngest of seven children and grew up in Northern New Jersey. While her siblings on the East Coast won’t be able to cheer her on in-person, they contributed significantly to her fundraising. They also helped Sarah brainstorm some of Milly’s famous expressions which Sarah used as names for her sign up slots. Sarah shared, “When I came up with the idea of using my Mom’s expressions as time slots for my SignUpGenius, they helped me remember many of them. It was right around Mother’s Day and the 5 year anniversary of my Mom’s passing, so I think it was our way of paying tribute to her.” Her sayings included, “Believe half of what you see and none of what you hear,” and “Only boring people are bored.” Reminiscing about their mother’s songs and sayings made Sarah and her siblings laugh, providing a moment of levity on an otherwise somber anniversary. 

Sarah’s husband and children are also supporting her Longest Day activity. Her son Cameron will host his own all-day sporting event: he plans to play golf from sunrise to sunset one day next week. Sarah’s younger sons and husband plan to join her during one of her tennis slots on Saturday and cheer her on from the sidelines throughout the day. Relatives on both sides of their family have passed from Alzheimer’s and dementia, and some are living with it today.

“Obviously, there are so many needy causes out there and people tend to get involved when a disease affects them personally,” says Sarah. “So I think the more we can educate people about what happens to Alzheimer’s patients and their families, the more people will want to get involved and raise funds to fight the disease.”

Sarah’s fundraising is in full swing: she hasn’t gotten to the tennis court yet, but she already reached the elite Solstice Champion status. She started collecting donations early and raised over $11,000 for Alzheimer’s care, support and research. As Milly would say, “The early bird catches the worm.” 

Support Sarah’s The Longest Day fundraiser here, and learn more at alz.org/TheLongestDay.

The Longest Day is a fundraising event focused around the summer solstice—June 20—that strives to advance the care, support, and research efforts of the Alzheimer’s Association. People from around the world will choose a fundraising activity of their choice to fight against Alzheimer’s. 

An Intimate Conversation with Artist Susanne Dotson: “Can You Tell Me Who I Am.”

The Final Roses by Susanne Dotson

Join Illinois Women Conquer ALZ on Wednesday, May 26th at 5:00 PM CST for an incredible event with artist Susanne Dotson. Hear Susanne’s personal story of her mother’s journey with dementia as shown through her artwork. Victoria Raymont, the Chair of the Illinois Chapter Board of Directors, will be in conversation with Susanne during the event. Proceeds from select artwork sales will go towards supporting the Alzheimer’s Association.

Susanne’s mother, Harriet Keller Wise, was an artist. Susanne grew up with a 48 box of crayons and unlined paper always around the house. She always loved making art, and would later pursue it as a career. Susanne spent ten years working towards an undergraduate BFA degree, worked 40 years in the business sector, and attended Columbus College of Art & Design to earn her MFA after retiring. Her mother loved to critique and engage in art conversation with Susanne. Her mother was proud of Susanne’s path to earn her degrees.

Join us to learn about Susanne’s mother’s journey with dementia, and how art provided the perfect medium to share her story.

To RSVP for An Intimate Conversation with Artist Susanne Dotson: “Can You Tell Me Who I Am,” click here.

Courtney Windisch: How Alzheimer’s Touched My Life

Back in 2003, my grandpa, Ralph, had to have a procedure to remove a tumor from his brain. Shortly after that, he started to forget things such as his address, where he was going, and he would start repeating the same stories. Initially, they thought this was a result of the procedure, but it was quickly diagnosed as the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s. This news shook up our family. When talking more to my family about it, my dad and his brothers spoke about how their grandma, Ralph’s mother, had the same symptoms of the disease. At that time, Alzheimer’s was not as commonly diagnosed, so she was diagnosed with being senile. After a few years, my family chose to move my grandpa into a home not too far from my grandma. Since I was so young when he was diagnosed, a lot of my memories were in that home visiting him. Even at the age of ten, knowing that this is a genetic disease, I knew I wanted to work towards a cure for my family and my future.

Growing up, I heard all of the stories about how great my grandpa was. He was well known on the railroad, and even until this day, when I meet someone who works for the railroad, I still get, “Are you related to Ralph Windisch?!” Even though I had always heard about how much of a big shot he was, he was still always just the person who would sneak me all his cucumbers from his salad plate at dinners because he knew they were my favorite. Before he was ever grandpa, he was just a cool kid from St. Paul, Minnesota, who loved his motorcycle club and fell in love with my grandma shortly after she left the convent. They went on to be married for the rest of their lives and have five boys.

I am originally from the suburbs of Chicago, but I now live in Los Angeles. During the last Los Angeles Marathon, I went down my street to watch and cheer on the runners. At that moment, I told myself that I would eventually work up the courage to run one myself. During the pandemic, I got into running as a form of therapy and also a reason to get out of the house. I then decided that it was finally time to run that marathon, and I wanted to do it back home. I knew that I wanted to run through a charity team, and there was no question that ALZ Stars was the choice for me. Along with wanting to run for my grandpa’s legacy and the future of my family, I recently had genetic testing done. I found out that I have multiple genetic markers for Alzheimer’s. I am only 28 years old, so I am hopeful that with all of the amazing work and with the research I have access to, things will be better in the future.

This disease does not just affect those who have it, but all of their loved ones as well. It is a terrible disease that slowly changes and takes away the people you love most. I encourage everyone to learn about Alzheimer’s disease and spread awareness so we can move forward in finding a cure.

Donate to Courtney’s ALZ Stars fundraising page HERE and help her make a difference.
To learn more about ALZ Stars and join the team, click HERE.