Helping To Change Lives One Step At A Time

Jack Fussell running
Jack Fussell running the Boulder Flatirons

Jack Fussell’s Facebook page says he is “just a regular guy trying to help, like I promised I would.”

But Fussell is anything but regular. The 64 year old Navy veteran is walking and running more than 3500 miles from the Atlantic to the Pacific coasts, all to raise funds and awareness for Alzheimer’s disease.

Fussell started his incredible cross-country journey on November 4, 2014 from Tybee Island in his home state of Georgia, and he will be finishing the trek in Monterey, California. Currently, Fussell is racing across Colorado. This ‘regular guy’ covers an impressive 20-25 miles each day, inspiring and educating those he meets along the way, and changing the lives of people affected by the disease one step at a time.

Jack Fussell running through Colorado
Jack Fussell running through the Colorado mountains

But his journey isn’t just about completing the physical challenge. Talking to as many people as possible about the disease is one of his most important goals. “Every 67 seconds, a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is made,” he said. “This disease is devastating…and not just for the people living with the disease, also for their caregivers.”
In 2000, Fussell lost his father to Alzheimer’s disease. His father came from a family of 12 siblings, seven of whom died of the disease. Faced with the loss of his father and a personal health scare, Fussell was inspired to reevaluate his life. He lost 100 pounds and made it his new mission to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s disease by trekking across the country.

 

His campaign, “Across the Land, raising awareness one step at a time” has been featured in hundreds of media outlets across the country and has enabled him to meet four governors as well as countless people affected by the disease. “I’ve spent about 55 nights in Alzheimer’s units talking to patients and caregivers. These special experiences are life changing and remind me that I need to keep going forward with our mission.”
Although his journey is physically and emotionally draining, Fussell is constantly inspired by the many brave people he meets that are either affected by the disease or working towards finding a cure. “I feel like the luckiest guy in the world to be able to do this.” But he stresses that so much work needs to be done in terms of legislation and funding. “It is shocking how little funding is provided for this disease – people can help by talking to their lawmakers and demanding change.”

Fussell said his trek doesn’t exactly have a set-in-stone plan. He usually just travels wherever there is an Alzheimer’s Association chapter. Fussell also wants to raise awareness of the network that is available to inform and support anyone touched by Alzheimer’s. “People can call 800-272-3900 to reach a 24-hour-a-day help line that has counselors for caregivers or anyone concerned about the illness,” he said.

Jack Fussell visits the Alzheimer's Association Colorado Chapter
Jack Fussell visits the Alzheimer’s Association Colorado Chapter

For more information about the Alzheimer’s Association or to follow Fussell’s journey, visit facebook.com/acrosstheland2015.

Leslie Mitchell

 

-by Leslie Mitchell, Alzheimer’s Association Volunteer.

Memories in the Making Art Goes Beyond the Paintbrush

The Alzheimer’s Association Memories in the Making® art program often enables individuals to reach outside of their dementia and paint a picture that reconnects them with a past memory. These documented memories become powerful tools that reassure family and caregivers that the essence of the individual is still there. Sometimes, long held memories emerge in the form of a painting. Such was the case for Ruth Bibbs, a Memories in the Making artist.

While at the InnovAge Chambers Center, with the encouragement of a volunteer art facilitator, Ruth was inspired to paint a picture reconnecting her to a long lost sibling.

William's Plan by Ruth Briggs, Memories in the Making Artist
William’s Plane by Ruth Briggs

When asked to describe her painting titled “William’s Plane” Ruth replied, “I was inspired to draw this. My brother flew in WWII. Although it might not have been what he flew, it inspired me. His name was William Booker and he was a Tuskegee Airman. I was very young when he was flying so I don’t remember details very well. I do know he enjoyed flying. My mother had a picture of him in a plane and she was very proud of him.”

Inspired by the story, staff members began to research Ruth’s brother in hopes of reconnecting them. The two had not been in contact for quite some time. Unfortunately, through internet research staff members discovered that William Booker passed away a few weeks after Ruth’s painting of the plane. However, the internet search for William Booker also revealed that Ruth’s painting was not the first time the Flight Engineer for the 477th Bomber Group had been immortalized through art. As it turns out, an artist by the name of Chris Hopkins created a charcoal drawing of William Booker for his Tuskegee Airman Project.

William Booker by Chris Hopkins
William Booker by Chris Hopkins

Upon learning of the connection, staff members at the InnovAge Chambers Center contacted Chris Hopkins and shared a photo of Ruth’s painting with him. Chris was thrilled when he learned of Ruth’s painting and the story behind it. He responded by telling Ruth that her painting had, “really made his day,” and he sent Ruth a large copy of the charcoal portrait he had created of William. She was overjoyed when she received the artwork, to her it was much more than a portrait.

It is stories like this that make the Alzheimer’s Association Memories in the Making Art Program so special. Often the beautiful landscapes or abstract watercolors come to mean so much more for the families of the Memories in the Making artists. They tell long forgotten stories, offer glimpses into a person’s past, and provide families with a treasured memory of a life well lived.

While this painting was featured in our 2013 art auction, there are many wonderful selections available in Memories in the Making Art Auctions being held in Colorado Springs, Denver, and Ft. Collins this May and June. If you are interested in attending this year’s event or sponsoring one of our Memories in the Making Art Auctions, please click here.

50 Marathons At Age 50 For Alzheimer’s

David KnappHi there! My name is David Knapp and in celebration of turning 50 this year I plan on running 50 marathons in memory of my mother Audrey Jean Knapp who died of Alzheimer’s in 2001. I hope to raise $50,000 for the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado and the 72,000 Coloradans living with the disease.

I know what many of you are thinking, “David, 50 marathons at age 50 is an absurd goal.

However, a favorite teacher once told me, “Always chase windmills. Even if they call you a crazy old man – keep chasing windmills. The day you stop chasing windmills is the day you die.” Taking that advice to heart, I firmly believing that the fatigue and injuries one endures during a “noble quest” (to quote Cervantes’ knight errant) are but a small price to pay for all the richness and rewards that the noble quest provides. Watching my Mom deteriorate as the disease progressed was undoubtedly the most emotionally painful experience of my life. But watching the physical, mental, and emotional toll it took on my father as he tried to care for her was a close second. So the challenge of running 50 marathons in one year will pale in comparison to what Dad went through as her caregiver.

David Knapp - Running Chicago Marathon
David Knapp – Running the Chicago Marathon

Just so you know, I’m no stranger to marathon challenges. In 2004, I ran 40 marathons during the calendar year to celebrate turning 40 years old. So running 50 to raise money for this incredible organization is a natural progression. I know it won’t be easy, but I want to complete next year’s quest to help others – the individuals who are dealing with this terrible disease, as well as their family members who are facing the difficult and heart-wrenching experience that my family went through with Mom.

Please help me reach my “50 Marathons for $50,000” goal by donating whatever you can. Keep in mind that many businesses and corporations have donation-matching policies in place – so if you could ask about that at your workplace, I’d greatly appreciate it. Also, I’m looking for corporate sponsors to help offset the tremendous costs involved in registering for and traveling to races, so please let me know if your organization would be willing to help with that aspect of the marathon quest.

Thank you in advance for your generosity. Together, we can help researchers find the critical medical breakthrough that one day will lead to a world without Alzheimer’s.

-David

You can follow David’s adventures before, during, and after the marathon quest at:

Fundraising page: act.alz.org/goto/DavidKnapp
Twitter: twitter.com/DrDavidKnapp
Facebook: facebook.com/ChasingWindmills50