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Local residents shining light on dementia, Alzheimer’s

Messenger Post Media
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Michael Moran commits to at least 100 rides at Seabreeze Amusement Park to benefit the Alzheimer's Association.

The Alzheimer’s Association is holding conversations about the impact of dementia in communities nationwide, vulnerability of families affected by dementia during the current pandemic and importance of lifestyle interventions to protect cognitive health of people at risk for Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month in June.

This month’s events will culminate during the summer solstice, the “longest day” of the year.

On June 20, participants from the Rochester and Finger Lakes region will join The Longest Day initiative. Together, they will use their creativity and passion to raise awareness and funds for dementia care, support and research.

This year, participants will choose virtual, at-home and social-distance activities such as biking, hiking and knitting. The initiative shines a light on the more than 400,000 New Yorkers ages 65 and older who are living with Alzheimer’s or another dementia, and the more than 1 million family members and friends providing unpaid care.

After losing her grandmother to Alzheimer’s, Alexis Kraft, of Rochester, joined The Longest Day as a participant and volunteer. Last summer, Kraft held a charitable golf tournament in honor of her grandmother Olga Billotti. This year, the tournament is scheduled for June 28 at Webster Golf Club. Leading up to the event, Kraft will ride a bicycle for the cause.

“My friends’ donations for my biking event will help advance the care, support and research efforts of the Alzheimer’s Association,” she said. “A lot of people in my life and surrounding community have been impacted by this disease, and I am helping them fight against it.”

Michael Moran, of Rochester, will celebrate The Longest Day and 100th anniversary of the Jack Rabbit roller coaster by taking at least 100 rides at Seabreeze Amusement Park to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association. For several years, Moran has been riding roller coasters to honor his brother Kevin, who died of younger-onset Alzheimer’s at age 54. Since announcing his Longest Day roller coaster marathon plans this year, Moran has raised more than $2,000.

Kelly O’Brien, of Webster, whose mother lives with dementia in a long-term care facility, is organizing a purple balloon arch, and week of sales and informational events for customers at Hegedorns Market.

Melanie Cerra, of Rochester, has supported the Alzheimer’s Association as a volunteer for more than 10 years.

“In the past two years, my sisters at Sigma Kappa Sorority and I have held a trivia night fundraiser for The Longest Day at WhichCraft Brews in Webster,” she said. “This year, we are holding our event virtually. I came to support this cause because of my membership in Sigma Kappa; however, over the past few years, after hearing heartbreaking stories from people I’ve met and friends whose loved ones are living and struggling with this disease, this has become so much more meaningful and close to my heart.”

Stephen Witte, of East Rochester, will stand-up paddleboard for 50 miles in memory of his parents. His father, John, lived with Alzheimer’s dementia. His mother, Martha, cared for her husband for 10 years and died before him.

“When she passed in 2017, I became my dad’s lead caregiver, along with my wife and a couple of great home care professionals,” Witte said. “It’s important for me to raise money to support all those caregivers who are working hard today and every day. Every day is ‘The Longest Day’ for them.”

Marissa Wuilliez and Mikalyn Kommer, of Farmington, are taking orders to bake cookies, cupcakes, cinnamon rolls and more as they raise funds for The Longest Day. Wuilliez lost her grandfather Vidal to Alzheimer’s and Kommer lost her uncle to Alzheimer’s dementia.

“We must take action now or these numbers will continue to rise,” said Bonnie Webster, senior director of development at the Alzheimer’s Association, Rochester and Finger Lakes Region. “Stand up to the darkness of dementia and make a donation today to help the Alzheimer’s Association support all those facing the disease.”

Visit alz.org/thelongestday for information and to register for The Longest Day.

Marissa Wuilliez, of Farmington, partners with Mikalyn Kommer to sell baked goods for The Longest Day.