Volunteer Support Group Facilitator Claudia Amador

Claudia Amador is a volunteer support group facilitator for the Alzheimer’s Association Illinois Chapter. A support group is a regularly scheduled in-person or virtual gathering of people with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia, family, friends or caregivers who interact around issues relating to dementia. Groups can have social, educational and/or support components and are facilitated by individuals who have received training from the Alzheimer’s Association. Find a support group near you here: Illinois Chapter Support Groups

Claudia Amador’s connection with Alzheimer’s started with her work as a neurologist in her home country of Honduras. One day a colleague approached Claudia about starting a memory clinic in the hospital. She knew starting a memory clinic would be a good opportunity to educate herself and others, and understand memory loss. For four years she ran a memory clinic in Honduras evaluating patients with memory loss, meeting with caregivers, coordinating neurocognitive tests, and running educational seminars for the population. Through this experience, she became very familiar with Alzheimer’s and dementia and grew a passion for sharing her knowledge with others. “For that reason, it’s important to be a part of the Alzheimer’s Association because I share the same vision and mission.” 

Claudia’s involvement with the Alzheimer’s Association has spread across different initiatives, allowing her to help serve the mission in many ways. She started off volunteering at the Chicago Walk to End Alzheimer’s for two years, followed by six months as a volunteer working for our 24/7 Helpline. Now Claudia serves as a support group facilitator, guiding those who are struggling to navigate the effects of Alzheimer’s and all other dementia. 

Claudia values the relationships she forms with support group participants because she sees the uplifting nature of sharing experiences with others. Claudia notes that her time as a volunteer support group facilitator has shown her how many people do not have enough knowledge of the disease that drives the impetus for action. In her groups, participants have a desire to learn just as much as they do to share. The supportive, bonded nature of the groups creates a cycle of knowledge sharing and encouragement. Facilitators like Claudia are important parts of guiding such strong foundations for successful support groups. 

When she’s not volunteering, Claudia enjoys spending time with her mother and son. They enjoy walks outside in the Spring and Summer, as well as good conversation over delicious meals. Her favorite movies are foreign films and comedies that she can enjoy with her family. 

Unforgettable Art Artist Spotlight: Randy and Rhya Reed

The health and safety of our volunteers, staff and all of our constituents are our top priority as we continue to pursue our mission. Given the evolving nature of COVID-19 and based on the guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health and the CDC, Unforgettable Art originally planned for April 25 will be rescheduled.

Unforgettable Art is an annual event put on by the Alzheimer’s Association Illinois Chapter. A lively evening filled with creativity, artists convert blank canvases into beautiful works of art in front of your eyes. Featuring live music, appetizers and drinks, there is no shortage of entertainment making this evening truly unforgettable. The artists donate their time and talents for this event, ending with a live auction of all artwork. Proceeds benefit research, advocacy and resources for those affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia. To showcase these wonderful and dedicated creators we are featuring two Unforgettable Artist Spotlights, father-daughter duo Randy and Rhya Reed!

Randy and Rhya Reed are a father-daughter artistic duo who will be creating live work for this year’s Unforgettable Art. Randy has been with the event for all seventeen years, making him a veteran of the event. The two have crossed over many mediums in their artistic careers, including painting on wood, canvas, glass, drawing, and even tattoos. 

Randy’s inspiration stemmed from watching his father draw when he was young. “Life in art started when I was a kid and would watch my dad draw horses and cars with circles. I picked up a pencil and just started creating, and drawing on everything.” Randy’s imagination was fed by his desire to create something different across mediums, a trait he passed down to his daughter Rhya. 

Randy’s artwork continues to vary over the years as he draws inspiration from new and different observations. From paintings in black and white to undersea mammals with mermaids alongside them, Randy’s creative inspiration knows no limits. He has also worked in portraiture, airbrushing, caricatures, murals, and he even painted the background for Jane the Dinosaur at the Burpee Museum of Natural History in Rockford, IL. “I guess my specialty is to keep people guessing.”

Rhya’s artistic career initiated the same way her father’s did- through watching him create. She would observe as he painted or drew, every time creating something new and different. She started drawing small comics, which developed into tattoo design using markers and colored pencils. “When I was about eighteen my dad bought me my first set of brushes and canvases so I could express my creativity in a new way. I couldn’t be more thankful for having that push to continue my art.” 

Randy and Rhya’s connection to Unforgettable Art emanates from their beloved Grandmother and Stepmother, Joyce Reed. Joyce was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s several years ago and the family has had to adjust to properly caring for and supporting such a beautiful and loving soul. Art has helped them to honor her- “Art has become a big part of me because it was there during dark times in my life,” says Rhya. Not only does their participation in Unforgettable Art allow them to convey their experience through creation, it also directly supports research, advocacy, and care for those affected by Alzheimer’s. 

Get tickets to Unforgettable Art here

“Be Strong. Be Brave.”

Jessica Nazario lives in St. Charles, Illinois with her husband Mark and four children- Rian, Alex, Max, and Mason. After moving around the country for Mark’s job, St. Charles finally became home. Jessica was raised in Pullman, Washington by her parents Dr. Beth Waddel and Dr. Bill Condon. Growing up, Jessica and her sister referred to their mother as “Kid Mom” due to her playful nature. She was always coming up with creative entertainment for her girls- from dance parties to Sunday Night Beauty Shop (face masks and nail painting paired with a good movie). Jessica was inspired by watching her mother conquer a PhD while having elementary aged children, and working full time as a psychologist while continuing to live up to the distinguished title of “Kid Mom”. 

As a grandparent, Beth maintains the same personality and flare when spending time with her grandchildren. Beth is the master of knowing how to meet the kids where they are – both mentally and physically. As infants, she would cuddle and hold them close. When they grew into toddler age, you could find Beth lying on the ground rolling around alongside them. Once they started getting even older, she created unique clubs for each of the kids to join in on for adventures. The older grandkids titled their club “Sneaky Thieves”, while “Sneaky Ninjas” was suited for the younger ones. The goal of the clubs was to engage in their escapades without the parents knowing. For example, stealing a cake from the kitchen and escaping to the tent out back to eat it in secrecy. Once some of her grandchildren reached their teenage years, Beth downloaded Snapchat. Though it may have been to her chagrin, Beth knew it was one of the best ways to stay in communication with her grandkids. 

Jessica and her sister first noted some signs of memory loss in their mother two years ago. Jessica described them as “that was weird” moments. Without much understanding behind the forgetfulness, Jessica and her sister noted the instances as being unusual but had little further explanation of what was going on. As these moments became more frequent, Beth sought medical care and was diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment. Just last month, this diagnosis was advanced to Alzheimer’s disease. Jessica has since taken initiative to access all the resources and support she can get her hands on. From webinars and support programs for her father as a caregiver, to creating a Walk To End Alzheimer’s team.

Jessica’s sons have also taken matters into their own hands. Her youngest boys, Max and Mason, decided to start a fundraiser online to sell bracelets. The bracelets read “Be Strong, Be Brave” and the boys sell them to support their grandmother.  “We started the fundraiser because we know people are trying to find a cure for Alzheimer’s, but need money to do it. We wanted to help, because we felt sad about Grams,” says 10-year-old Max. “I came up with the bracelet idea because I’ve seen it used for other causes. We picked purple because it’s the color for Alzheimer’s, and the quote ‘Be Strong. Be Brave.’ just came into my head.” 

The boys have already raised a sizable amount of money to support Alzheimer’s care, support and research thanks to the boundless support from friends and family. “I didn’t feel like I was too young to do a fundraiser. I mean, I am only eight, but anyone can do anything,” says Mason. 

Jessica, Mark and their children take on this battle with Beth’s wise words in mind. One of Beth’s favorite stories to tell Jessica growing up was about a little boy waking up on Christmas morning to horse manure under the tree in lieu of gifts. The little boy was not discouraged, instead, he began shoveling the manure exclaiming “With all this manure, there must be a pony somewhere!” With that, Jessica and her family try to live life always digging for the pony. Beth also frequently used the words “joy” and “perseverance” in day to day life, and so Jessica’s family takes on this new challenge with joyful perseverance. Getting involved with the Alzheimer’s Association is this family’s way of honoring their loving grandmother and supporting the fight to end Alzheimer’s. 

Unforgettable Art New Artist Spotlight: Devan

The health and safety of our volunteers, staff and all of our constituents are our top priority as we continue to pursue our mission. Given the evolving nature of COVID-19 and based on the guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health and the CDC, Unforgettable Art originally planned for April 25 will be rescheduled.

Unforgettable Art is an annual event put on by the Alzheimer’s Association Illinois Chapter. A lively evening filled with creativity, artists convert blank canvases into beautiful works of art in front of your eyes. Featuring live music, appetizers and drinks, there is no shortage of entertainment making this evening truly unforgettable. The artists donate their time and talents for this event, ending with a live auction of all artwork. Proceeds benefit research, advocacy and resources for those affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia. To showcase these wonderful and dedicated creators we are featuring our first NEW Unforgettable Artist Spotlight!

“My name is Devan and I am a self-taught artist who specializes in marker art. My art is inspired by the textures of Van Gogh, the style of Dr. Suess, and the colors of Peter Max. I combine the style of these famous artists to create a unique style of my own. I primarily use Sharpies but also have branched out to using Prisma and Copic markers too. I use the markers in a way that I have yet to see another artist do, I carefully layer and time my creating process to create one of a kind textures. I use these textures to make everything from ethereal nature scenes, beautiful women, and one of a kind cartoons. 

“Void Vixen”

I have been a professional artist for 10 years. My love for markers started when I began my career as an artist. I wanted to do something different based on my favorite artist Van Gogh, so I came up with the idea of creating textures with markers. I started taking commissions at 17 years old, wrote and illustrated a children’s book when I was 20 years old (this book is still not seen by the public), and started my first online store at the age of 21. During this time I spent countless hours practicing with the markers, slowly teaching myself new textures. I also taught myself how to draw 150 different animals; everything from different species of cats, dogs, and birds to exotic animals like alligators, giraffes, and sloths.

I decided to participate in Unforgettable Art: An Affair for Alzheimer’s because I wanted to give back to the community. I decided a few years ago when I first started doing art shows to find a way to use my art to give back to the community at least once or twice a year. My family and friends are always looking out for new opportunities for me to showcase my art. One of my parents found this event and while it specifically asked for painters, I applied anyway. I have a few family members that suffer from this disease so it means a lot to me that I was accepted. 

“Typical Tuesday”

While my art is my main focus I do find time to enjoy some hobbies. I like to consider myself a hippie, so I enjoy going on nature walks when the weather allows, usually I take my cat Punkin. Punkin is my best friend and has been my rock through my ups and downs of dealing with depression and anxiety. I have also been able to deal with my mental illnesses through my love for live music, I’ve seen over 50 bands/musicians, each time dealing with the crowds gets easier. I also love to hang out with my two best friends, we are always finding something fun to do, even if it’s just some good food and great conversation. I live a pretty simple life for the most part – just enjoying all the little things and making beautiful art.”

We are beyond thrilled to have Devan on board as one of our new artists this year. Find more information and images of Devan’s work below: 

Devan’s website

Devan on Facebook and Instagram: @devantheartist

Email: devantheartist@yahoo.com

Tickets to Unforgettable Art

Unforgettable Art Artist Spotlight: Nadja Schutt

The health and safety of our volunteers, staff and all of our constituents are our top priority as we continue to pursue our mission. Given the evolving nature of COVID-19 and based on the guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health and the CDC, Unforgettable Art originally planned for April 25 will be rescheduled.

Unforgettable Art is an annual event put on by the Alzheimer’s Association Illinois Chapter. A lively evening filled with creativity, artists convert blank canvases into beautiful works of art in front of your eyes. Featuring live music, appetizers and drinks, there is no shortage of entertainment making this evening truly unforgettable. The artists donate their time and talents for this event, ending with a live auction of all artwork. Proceeds benefit research, advocacy and resources for those affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia.  To showcase these wonderful and dedicated creators we are featuring another Unforgettable Artist Spotlight – Nadja Schutt. 

A lover of color and texture from an early age, Nadja opened her first shop in 2009. Fresh out of art school, NASchuttDesign took shape and Nadja commenced her journey of creative expression. Featuring handcrafted works of art in the form of brooches, pendants, bracelets and other wearable bead sculptures, Nadja began perfecting her craft. After several years of success in the beading trade, Nadja’s art began to diffuse across mediums. She began to paint on silk, a practice she learned from her Oma (grandmother) in Germany as a child. Her silk work featured intricate floral designs, inspired by her love for her grandmothers. 

“As time progressed and the matriarchs in my family began to move into the next stages of life, the concept of home and memories began to take form in the current Haus and Window Watcher series. Brilliant colors and playful expressions are intimate takes on past and present memories”. Nadja seeks to capture the everpresent drive for exploration that she believes sticks with us from childhood with imagery of joy, playfulness, and happiness. 

Nadja attributes much of her artistic influence to her late grandmother, Bonnie Schutt. A frequenter of her grandmother’s in-home craft room, Nadja discovered her love for colorful creation at a young age. Together they made scrapbooks, decorations, and painted small figurines. As she got older and became an artist, Nadja’s grandmother was her go-to helper when it came to preparing for craft shows. 

The artistic assistance diminished when Bonnie began to show signs of dementia. Nadja remained a dedicated crafting partner and still visited for craft room adventures and brought her grandmother along to the craft store for mini field trips. Eventually moved into a memory care facility, Bonnie continued expressing herself through art by participating in all of the group art projects that she could. A creative and passionate soul was lost when Bonnie passed due to complications of dementia in 2017. 

Later that same year, Nadja discovered Unforgettable Art and became one of our incredible and dedicated artists. “My Grandma was a very creative person, I couldn’t think of a better way to remember and honor her than by taking part in Unforgettable Art”. You can check out her work and learn more about Nadja’s art here, or visit her on Instagram @naschuttdesign. 

Tickets to Unforgettable Art