The summer solstice, the day when the Northern Hemisphere has the longest period of daylight in a calendar year and also the first official day of summer, will be June 20.
But for the Alzheimer’s Association, a Chicago-based nonprofit that helps individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and all other dementia through research and treatment, that date takes on new meaning. It’s also The Longest Day, an annual day of fundraising and awareness. This year’s event also falls on Father’s Day, taking on even more significance.
“I just like the aspect of The Longest Day. It’s interesting it’s on Father’s Day this year,” said Cindy Widner Wall, a Buckhead resident whose dad, Coy Widner, died of Alzheimer’s in 2017. “It is a time to focus on what this disease is doing, but the days can seem very long when you’re a caregiver. The day can go on endlessly with the things you need to do, the things you need to repeat.
“But it’s also a day to reflect on my dad and my mother (Gerry Widner) and the influence they had on my life. They supported me in my life, both good and bad. My daddy was my hero and he still is my hero.”
Wall is one of countless local volunteers with the association’s Georgia chapter who will participate in The Longest Day. She keeps a journal and writes to her father often. For Father’s Day and The Longest Day, as in past years, she plans to write an open letter to her dad.
“I do that because he had such a strong impact on my life,” Wall said. “(I write about) the lessons he taught me as a little girl and reflecting on what I learned from him as Daddy. I didn’t call him Daddy until he moved in with us in 2013, following the death of my mother. We didn’t really know he had the disease and didn’t know how bad it was. She would finish his sentences, and we always thought it was that way.”
Atlanta Fine Homes Sotheby's International Realty, a Buckhead-based residential real estate company, will celebrate The Longest Day on June 22 with a special competition. Because Tuesdays are the busiest days of the week for real estate agents because of agent caravans and open houses, the company decided to host a step challenge.
In the contest employees in each of its four offices – Buckhead, North Atlanta (Alpharetta), east Cobb and intown (Midtown) – will compete to see how many steps they can take on that day. The individual who takes the most steps overall will receive the grand prize, and each office will also have a winner for the employee who takes the most steps.
“I opened this to agents, staff and management,” said Barbara Morgan, a Realtor with Atlanta Fine Homes’ Buckhead office who organized the contest. “We have about 450 agents spread out around the metro area and 50 (other employees). I opened it to everybody in the whole company as a fun thing to do as we all come back to work (in person) after COVID.”
Morgan has become passionate about raising awareness and support for the association.
“My father lived in assisted living for the last four years of his life, and I got to know so many residents there who were suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia, and it just broke my heart,” she said. “At first I was put off by it and then developed a lot of compassion and became an advocate for them. I saw how much they suffered. It’s just unconscionable we have this disease with no cure. We just had the first new drug released in 25 years (Aducanumab). I’m terrified of this disease and everybody should be. It’s just horrendous.”
Both Wall and Morgan pointed out that there are not only 6 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s but also 11 million individuals caring for them.
Seniorlink, a Boston-based company that offers professional coaching and emotional and financial support for families taking care of loved ones and has more than a dozen reps in metro Atlanta, is encouraging metro Atlantans to participate in The Longest Day.
“This past year has been a time of isolation for most of us, with long repetitive days spent largely at home,” the company stated. “As many of us begin to return to activities we enjoyed before the COVID-19 pandemic, we must remember there are millions of Americans across the country for whom the isolation may continue: individuals who are living with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia and their family caregivers.
“These caregivers – including spouses, children, siblings, and longtime friends – understand we face another ongoing, deadly pandemic as the prevalence of Alzheimer’s and related dementias are on the rise. In Georgia alone, more than 150,000 people are living with Alzheimer’s. The disease is so prevalent that it kills more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.”
For The Longest Day, the association is hosting several events, both virtual and in person, to raise funds and awareness for the disease, including the Ride to End ALZ. For more information, to participated in an event or to make a donation, visit www.alz.org.