Reason to Hope Co-Chair: Marty Wilke

My relationship with the Alzheimer’s Association began in 2010. I was invited to attend the very first Reason to Hope luncheon in Chicago, honoring WGN Radio legend, Wally Phillips and his family.  At the time, I was the General Manager of WGN-TV and attended as both a representative of the WGN/Tribune family and my own family – as my Dad, Cliff had already been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. This Reason to Hope luncheon was where I first learned of the critical mission of the Alzheimer’s Association and how they were working to provide resources, education and hope to families affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia.  I left that very first Reason to Hope luncheon newly inspired and hopeful for the future, for families like mine.

I was also impressed by the overall effectiveness and efficiency of the luncheon – in just one hour, Reason to Hope had changed my view of Alzheimer’s and inspired me to become a bigger part of the mission.  I knew immediately that Reason To Hope was an event and an experience that I wanted to share with others in order to do my part to help raise awareness for Alzheimer’s. 

In 2011, I became a Reason to Hope Table Host and invited friends and family to join me. The following year, 2012, I chaired the Reason to Hope Chicago luncheon and shared my Dad’s story with the Reason to Hope community. I have and will continue to support Reason to Hope through the years as a Table Host.  Last year in 2019 and now again in 2020, I am proud to be Co-Chair of the Reason to Hope Chicago luncheon.

The first time I attended Reason to Hope it was clear that I was now a part of a bigger community through the Alzheimer’s Association. Through the years I have seen Reason to Hope grow through the dedication and expanding roster of Reason to Hope Table Hosts.

When our Table Hosts invite their friends, family, co-workers, colleagues – they help create and grow this community within Reason To Hope – a community that shares the common goal of a world without Alzheimer’s.

In addition to Reason to Hope, I have embarked on several other endeavors as a part of my fight against Alzheimer’s. I have participated in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Chicago with my family in honor of my Dad and his caregivers.  I also participated in the Alzheimer’s Association family forum education program, and caregiver support groups. As a representative of the Illinois Broadcasters Association I have partnered with the Alzheimer’s Association to promote the Silver Search program to protect endangered missing persons through a state wide awareness campaign.  I currently serve on the Silver Search Task Force and have most recently joined Illinois Women Conquer ALZ.

What gives me a reason to hope is the mission and strategy of the Alzheimer’s Association. As the world’s leading voluntary health organization, funding Alzheimer’s care, support, advocacy and research gives me HOPE!

I have benefited from the Alzheimer’s Association mission, I have embraced the mission, and will continue to participate in the mission by raising awareness and funds to help achieve the goal of a world without Alzheimer’s!

If you want to become a part of the fight against Alzheimer’s, join us at our virtual Reason to Hope event on Tuesday, November 10 at 12 p.m. CT! Learn about the mission of the Alzheimer’s Association and embrace the Reason to Hope community. 

Or if you cannot join us this year, go online and donate to the Alzheimer’s Association Reason to Hope.

Register for Reason to Hope

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!”

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. 

Volunteer Support Group Facilitator Mary Sanko

Mary Sanko 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

“In the early 1990’s, my mother lived in a small town in the state of Oregon and I was 2,000 miles away in Illinois.  When she began to tell me her memory was failing, I dismissed it and tried to reassure her. However, it soon became obvious that she was right.  She had a friend named Eileen, a retired Army nurse, who became her “guardian angel,” helping with her medications and errands. The responsibility became too great for her, and since there were safety concerns, my brother and I decided to move her to Portland near where he lived.  She resisted the move, but we knew that we needed to “keep her close.” Becoming her caregiver and doing it with the dignity she deserved was very difficult. She passed away late in 1997.

I attended a local support group during the later stages of her disease and found it reassuring and helpful.  Early in 1998, I was asked if I would consider becoming a support group facilitator. I still wonder why I was chosen.  After all, I had a mathematics degree and had worked as a computer programmer. No social work education here! The local office staff trained me and I became a co-facilitator for the group I had attended a few months earlier.  I found that helping others through their Alzheimer’s journey eased my grief.

It wasn’t long before my co-facilitator moved out of the area and I was on my own. Lurinda, whose mother also had Alzheimer’s and had been a member of the group, joined me in 2004.  We have been a team ever since. We have a two-pronged approach to our meetings – education and support. The education segment is usually a DVD, but occasionally, we’ll have a guest speaker.

Twenty years later, I still find the support group meeting to be the most rewarding hours of my month.  My mother, in her illness, gave me a wonderful gift, and I hope that through her, I have been able to help others.  Facilitating a support group can be very challenging at times; but it is wonderful to see caregivers who come because they are desperate for help eventually begin to help others.

 When I was growing up, my mother took sewing classes so she could help me with my 4-H projects.  Sewing, and later quilting, became an important part of my life. In 2002, I made a small quilt that still hangs in the local office.  It is dedicated to all caregivers with the inscription, “In honor of support group members who help and encourage each other through difficult times.”  And it is also a tribute to my mother.”

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