Kristen Guilino’s story is unique. She began participating in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s not because of an experience with Alzheimer’s Disease in her own family but because of the experience of a friend. “A good friend and co-worker of mine lost her grandfather to Alzheimer’s four years ago. Before meeting Becky, I didn’t know much about Alzheimer’s and never had much thought about the disease. After hearing Becky’s story, I wanted to know how I could help.”
Becky Harris, Kristen’s friend and co-worker at Goodwyn Mills and Cawood, Inc., lost her grandfather to Alzheimer’s in 2013. In May 2016, Becky invited Kristen to attend a planning meeting for the 2016 Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Kristen says, “After attending that planning meeting, I knew there had to be more we could do to find a cure for this devastating disease. I knew that I had to find somewhere to serve or a way to help bring awareness to Alzheimer’s in our community. Seeing the pain of those caring for someone with Alzheimer’s is heartbreaking and every reason to be a part of the Walk to End Alzheimer’s.”
Kristen immediately got involved with the local walk committee and continues to serve this year as the 2017 River Region Walk to End Alzheimer’s Team Retention Chairperson. In this role, she serves as the primary person who relates with teams who participated in the Walk in the past, helping them to sign up to participate again. She supports and engages team captains, which gives her plenty of opportunities to interact with people directly impacted by Alzheimer’s.
“Even though I have not been directly affected by Alzheimer’s within my family, I have seen the impact that this disease has on those around me. Just in the short time that I have been volunteering with the Alzheimer’s Association, I have heard more and more stories of close friends and coworkers who have lost someone dear to them to this disease. What started with just one story has turned into dozens of stories that tear at my heart every time I hear them. There are some stories I have heard where caregivers can look back on memories and have a good laugh, but the rest bring tears to their eyes every single time they share their experience. I can’t imagine the pain of someone dealing with Alzheimer’s and my heart breaks even more for the caregivers who experience pain from the outside looking in, giving everything they physically and mentally can, without knowing whether their loved one will remember them the next day.”
The stories Kristen hears in her work are often tough to hear but they are also motivating. “These stories are the very reason why I walk in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, why I participate in Paint the Town Purple, why I volunteer and serve in our community each year. I long for others to be more aware of Alzheimer’s and to know the signs to look for in their loved ones and to know that there are others out there who can help.”
It takes people like Kristen to join in with the many people who have been directly impacted by Alzheimer’s Disease, to participate together, to accomplish the mission of ending Alzheimer’s Disease. “I am an advocate to end Alzheimer’s,” Kristen says, “to help save the brains of today and the ones of our future! I walk in hope that the first survivor is near.”
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