Don’t You Forget About Me

Sometimes I forget what I ate for lunch the day before. Sometimes I forget to turn off my desk lamp. Sometimes I even forget to respond to text messages from my closest friends.


I may forget things, but I usually end up remembering them at some point if I think about them hard enough. Someone with Alzheimer’s disease, though, does not have that same luxury.


When I was in elementary school, my grandpa was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I was too young to understand the scientific part of his illness, but I was old enough to see what the disease was physically doing to him.


It started out with little things, such as him forgetting to take off the sizing stickers from his shirts. But then, after awhile, it got much worse—to the point where he needed signs on each door of his house to remember which room was which. I may have only been a small elementary schooler, but hearing him say “I want to go home” while standing in the middle of his own living room was, by far, one of the most heartbreaking memories I have of him while he was sick.


Truth be told, my grandpa was quite the jokester. He was known for his humor and infectious laugh, and he was rightfully nicknamed “Mickey” for his cartoon-like character. Although there were some sad memories of him once he was diagnosed, I have twice as many happy memories of him making us cry from laughing so hard.


My grandpa passed away on March 4th, 2010. It was a bittersweet time for my whole family because although we lost someone whom we had loved very much, he was in a much better place; he was no longer in any pain or frustration from his dementia.



Life continued onward, but I knew there would always be a part of my mom and her siblings that would long for my grandpa. It was from that moment when I decided something needed to be done.


My love for science was sparked during my years in junior and senior high. Upon finding multiple websites about Alzheimer’s disease, I was instantly determined to become more involved with the cause to find its cure. It was not until the summer before my freshman year of college here at WSU when I found the Walk to End Alzheimer’s website and read more into it. It only took me two seconds to realize that this was exactly what I was looking for. I was hooked.



The annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s event is run through the Alzheimer’s Association and it happens in multiple states across the US—the best part was that there was going to be a walk site here in Winona. It propelled my passion for getting involved, and I began planning on creating a team for the next year’s walk.


I had never attended Walk to End Alzheimer’s before, let alone created a team, so taking on the project put a lot of responsibility on me that made me a little nervous. Once I started telling my family members about what I was doing, though, they were floored and could not have been more excited to join my team. I created an account on the official website and proudly named myself the team captain of “Mickey’s Memories.”


By the time summer 2018 arrived, I had recruited many family members from both my mom's and dad's side, as well as a few of my own friends. It was an exhilarating experience to see the emotional and financial support for the event grow with each passing day. Before I knew it, the summer flew by, I was back in school, and the day of the walk was inching closer and closer.


Winona’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s was on September 22nd down by Lake Winona, and it was an absolutely beautiful day. It was chilly at first and the lake was covered in fog, but then it eventually cleared up and the sun came out to cheer us on.  



The first hour prior to the walk, my team members and I registered ourselves and picked out a Promise Garden flower—these were flower-shaped whirlybirds that came in four colors to represent the different relationships people have to Alzheimer’s disease (my family and I received purple flowers since we have lost someone to the illness, my grandpa). Those of us who personally raised $100 or more, as well as individuals who donated $100 or more, received an Alzheimer’s Association t-shirt to wear during the walk.


It was so much fun to greet my family members and friends before the walk. We got to catch up and take lots of photos together.



We then gathered together at the pre-walk ceremony where the lives who have been touched by Alzheimer’s were recognized, and we pumped each other up to keep fighting for its cure. It was such a sweet gesture, and my family was appreciative of the Alzheimer’s Association’s recognition. My mom and I were definitely both teary-eyed.


After the ceremony, everyone got up together and began walking. To see a sea of people holding up their colored flowers and and wearing their purple t-shirts made all the hard work I had endured to create and organize team “Mickey’s Memories” so incredibly worth it.



Having the opportunity to get my family and friends together to support me in a cause I am so passionate about was, by far, the most wonderful experience I have had thus far as a 20-year-old. I cannot wait for future walks here in Winona that will not only raise funds for Alzheimer’s research and care, but also will allow Grandpa “Mickey” Spencer’s legacy to live on.


I would like to give an immense thank you shoutout to my family members and friends who donated to my team and who walked with me the day of. We were able to surpass my initial team goal of $500 by over three times—our final fundraising total was $1,670.00! Thank you again to everyone because I could not have done it without you.


Here lies year one of making memories in honor of those who cannot.

We will never forget you, Grandpa.