“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

The Unwavering Power of Love: A Valentine’s Day Tribute

A native of Chicago, Illinois, Paul Bernstein built his legacy as an attorney. A graduate of DePaul Law school, Paul met his wife Dolores working in a firm where she was hired as a clerk. Before long, they fell in love and got married, blending their families of Dolores’ four children and Paul’s three, a second marriage for both. The children took to Dolores immediately, as did most people, according to Paul. “Dolores was a natural when it came to everyone she ever met, always taking a wonderful liking to her. I enjoyed making new friends with her even though those friends were much more likely to remember her name and not mine!” Paul was proud of the strength of their marriage, and it stood the test of time as they developed a life together in downtown Chicago. Unexpectedly, Dolores and Paul took in one of their grandchildren when she was around seven years old. Raising and caring for her for upwards of nine years, Paul and Dolores developed their own little family with their granddaughter. Dolores’ passion for dancing, playing piano, and violin was contagious and eventually rubbed off. “Dolores’ love of dancing caught on with our granddaughter, and we went on to live a great life and raise a super grandchild!”

Paul and Dolores’ marriage was full of love and life, improving every day even when it felt as though it couldn’t get any better. They both remained in good health while they raised their granddaughter, allowing them to enjoy all the experiences of life together as she grew up. As avid lovers of travel, they spent any free time they had seeing the world together. “Our life before the diagnosis was great and got greater with every day of our life together. This was a second marriage for both of us and we lived each day to the maximum.” 

After 45 beautiful years together, Dolores was diagnosed with a rare form of dementia for which there is no cure. As her disease progressed, Paul terminated 98% of his law practice to become a 24/7 caregiver for his loving wife. A committed and adamant caretaker, Paul sometimes slept on the floor of their apartment in front of the door to prevent Dolores’ wandering out in the middle of the night. There were easy days and more difficult days, but Paul’s love and commitment to the love of his life never wavered in the face of adversity. “I cannot say I enjoyed every part of it, but it never gave me a reason to give up or not show the love of my life, that through the good and the not so good, how much I owed her for our loving lives together- and so whatever it took, I did!”

After two years of 24/7 care taking, Dolores and Paul were given a prognosis of about six months. Though it ended up being seven months, Paul appreciated the honesty and directness of the neurologist regarding the projection. “Honesty is the best policy. Undertaking this kind of responsibility takes honesty, sincerity, and willingness to try.” Paul remained by Dolores’ side until the very end. After 47 years of joy and happiness, Paul said goodbye to his loving wife. Though it was a difficult and sometimes painful end, he has no regrets about how he handled it. Taking time off work to focus on Dolores’ needs, making her comfortable and happy, was a commitment Paul stuck to with steadfastness. “I just cannot think about any life other than asking God that when I go, I end up in the heaven that Dolores is in, and that we live happily ever after… knowing we had a fantastic life together and would enjoy even more further on.” Though dementia is a powerful disease to battle, Paul’s commitment to his wife was unwavering and it is stories like these that solidify the Alzheimer’s Association’s pledge to find a cure.

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