As a working mother of four children under 12, Julie Felan still finds time to start up a 5K on her own, serve as a prominent committee member and fundraise daily all in the name of ending Alzheimer's.
It wasn’t until three years ago that Felan found out about her grandfather’s decade long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. Her family kept it from her and her siblings to avoid any unnecessary stress on the family until his condition reached a point they could no longer ignore.
“Having that conversation is a very emotional one because you don’t ever want to see your loved one forget things, or memories, or even forget who you are as a person,” Felan said.
Hearing this disheartening news sparked a fire in Felan to do something. While browsing through Facebook she came across an ad for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Rolla and she knew she had to get involved.
“It’s funny how you don’t pay attention to something important until it affects you personally,” Felan said.
Felan decided to call up her family members and start the “Remember Me” team in honor of her grandfather. She also attended a committee meeting for the Alzheimer’s Association in Rolla and has been an active member ever since. Her Walk team is 20 members strong this year.
Rolla’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s will take place September 21 at the Lion’s Club Park. Registration begins at 8 a.m. followed by the opening ceremony at 9 a.m. and then walk will follow.
According to Rolla Walk manager Taylor Rehmer, the Rolla walk committee is full of diverse members from various walks of life.
"Our walk here is special because of how united the community is,” Rehmer said. “It shows that anyone - high schoolers, fraternity members, healthcare professionals, stay-at-home moms - can play their own role in fighting for the first survivor of Alzheimer's."
Alzheimer's disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. with over 5 million Americans living with the disease. Currently, there is no cure and or way to prevent the disease.
“I wanted to do something to help not only my grandpa but also all of those people in the world living with it and for future generations to come,” Felan said. “I want to help find a cure before my generation and my children’s generation, before it even has a chance to reach any of us.”
Over the past three years of her involvement with the Alzheimer’s Association, Felan decided to take her fundraising skills one step further. Whether it’s making calls in between nap times or involving her kids in fundraising activities, Felan is always thinking about her next fundraising move.
This April, she hosted her first 5K in St. James to fundraise for the Alzheimer’s Association. Thirty-five people came out and raised a little over $1,000. She decided to bring a 5K to St. James because of the interest her community has in 5K and 10K races.
“I find what works in our community, what brings people together, and do that,” Felan said.
Felan also wanted to find a way to involve her kids in the fundraising effort. She reached out to a local grocery store to participate in a “Bagging for Bucks” event with her four kids. They bagged customer's groceries for tips that go directly to her walk team. Felan let her kids run an event table by themselves to advocate for the cause.
“I feel like they are ahead of their game at 9 and 11,” Felan said. “They are the ones advocating what [Alzheimer’s] is about and telling people, ‘It’s the sixth leading cause of death and we’re looking to find a cure for our gramps.’ My oldest two especially understand it and what they can do to help.”
This is the second year Felan will walk with her team and serve as a committee member at the Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Rolla. Felan is looking forward to seeing her community come together over a common goal.
To start or join a team today, visit the Alzheimer’s Association at alz.org/walk. To learn more about the disease and available resources, call the toll-free Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 Helpline at 800-272-3900.