Walk to End Alzheimer’s Volunteer Jackie Marco

Jackie Marco is a Walk to End Alzheimer’s Volunteer from Sandwich, Illinois. She has raised over $4,000 in support of the Walk to End Alzheimer’s over the course of two years. She is currently employed at Financial Plus Credit Union in Ottawa, Illinois. She comes from a family of farmers, owning over 800 acres of farmland with her siblings and father. Her connections across the community make Jackie an impactful leader for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s Illinois Valley. To learn more about getting involved with Walk to End Alzheimer’s, click here. 

“I am 22 years old and currently live in Sandwich, Illinois. I work in the banking industry as well as help on my family’s farms. Pictured is myself in the middle along with my parents Jeff & Patty. I have one fur baby Lizzy who is a purebred Border Collie. I got involved with the Illinois Valley Walk two years ago.

This is something that hits very close to home for me. All three of my grandparents who I grew up with have battled Alzheimer’s. I lost my grandma (my mom’s mom) in August of 2018, my grandpa (dad’s dad) in August of 2019 and most recently my other grandma (dad’s mom) in January of 2020. It had been very hard to watch all of them go through and battle this horrible disease. With the help of our families and a live-in full-time caretaker, we were able to care for all three of them and keep them in their homes. Having been through all of this and now losing all of them makes this walk mean so much more to me. 

I do believe that one day there will be a cure. I am so excited to play a role in planning and putting this walk together this year and cannot wait to work with everyone!”

“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. 

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.

Junior Board New Member Spotlight: Joe Barron

Paint The Night Purple is an annual winter fundraiser hosted by the Alzheimer’s Association Junior Board. Through the dedicated efforts of our Planning Committee, the event brings together young professionals from across Chicago for an unforgettable evening featuring an open bar and lavish hors-d’oeuvres, a silent auction, raffle, and live entertainment. 

More than 1,000 Chicagoans come out each year and this event has quickly become the Junior Board’s largest and longest running fundraiser. Paint the Night Purple 2020 is on the horizon, and in honor of that we are featuring one of our newest dedicated Junior Board members, Joe Barron. Joe lives in Glen Ellyn with his wife Lauren, daughter Emery and two Vizlas, Gipper and Rudy. 

“Hi! I’m Joe Barron, ALZ Junior Board member since 2018.  I’m truly honored to be a part of this wonderful group of people to help find a cure for Alzheimer’s. Both of my grandmothers passed away from Alzheimer’s with one of them having lived with it for over 10 years. I now fight in their honor and for a future without Alzheimer’s.

In 2017, my wife and I started a board game company, Gray Matters Games, which donates a meaningful portion of profits to Alzheimer’s research. The last two years Gray Matters has been a sponsor for Paint The Night Purple and donated our entire line of games to the silent auction. Gray Matters also holds an annual Longest Day event of playing board games! Last year the event was held at Fair Game store in La Grange and raised over $3,000 for the Alzheimer’s Association. Nothing beats having a ton of fun while raising money for an amazing cause!

My favorite memory of PTNP has been dancing the night away the past two years to The Boy Night Band. My friends and I that attended PTNP were in high school when most of that music came out, so it felt like we were back at prom!”

To get your tickets for this exciting winter event, visit here: https://www.alzillinoisjuniorboard.org/paint-the-night-purple.html