“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 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