Passionate and committed Walnut Creek donor honors her mother
Before Cheryl Gross was born, her mother, Nadine Pike, used to pray she would one day have a daughter or son blessed with confidence and determination. She wanted to have someone strong by her side to help her face life’s difficult challenges, and she found that and more in Cheryl.
Stepping up when the challenge came
In 2001, Nadine needed to draw from the strength of her only child. She started experiencing memory loss, unable to recall the name of streets she’d traveled for years. As the signs of cognitive impairment grew, Cheryl took her mother to see a neurologist. The diagnosis was Alzheimer’s, and although it wasn’t unexpected, the news was devastating. As the disease progressed, Cheryl left her job to help her father take care of her mother.
Cheryl adored her sweet, even-tempered mother, who’d always been quick to smile and loved to laugh. But eventually Alzheimer’s began to steal Nadine away, and Cheryl was devastated when her mother no longer recognized her. Nadine passed away in 2011.
A passion to give deepened
Heartbroken but undeterred, Cheryl turned her love for her mother into an even deeper passion for fighting Alzheimer’s disease. The Walnut Creek, California, resident had been involved with the Alzheimer’s Association since 2008, when she first participated in Walk to End Alzheimer’s in San Francisco. Since then, Cheryl has participated in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s as well as the Association’s other signature event, The Longest Day. Cheryl also volunteered in her local Association office, tracking data from Helpline calls among other duties.
A second loss
In November of 2015, Cheryl endured another devastating loss when her husband Bob suddenly passed away. He was one of Cheryl’s biggest supporters, backing her decision to leave her job to care for her mother and championing her desire to support the Association.
“Bob loved my mother dearly and was 100 percent behind me — we worked as a team,” Cheryl says. “He knew how much I wanted to help others facing this disease, and he’d want me to continue on this path. The Alzheimer’s Association was important to him, too.”
Inspiring others to give
The month before Bob passed, Cheryl and Bob made a $50,000 online matching gift challenge in honor of Nadine. Donors matched the pledge in nine days, resulting in a donation of $121,000 to help advance the care, support and research efforts of the Association.
Cheryl was amazed by the positive response to the matching gift. It inspired her to put forward a larger match in 2016. In December 2016, Cheryl honored her mother by establishing a $1 million matching gift challenge. Donors responded overwhelmingly by contributing more than $8 million for the cause.
“I thought it was fantastic that we received such a good response. I’m glad I was able to inspire people,” Cheryl says. “I’ve become very close to the people I work with at the Association, which is so nice. They genuinely appreciate my efforts.”
Cheryl vows to continue her support of the Association, as giving touches her heart.
“Everyone seems to know someone who has been affected by this disease,” Cheryl says. “And when you hear their stories — the pain they’re going through — you just have to get involved and do what you can to help stop this devastation. It makes me happy to know I can have an impact.”
The Alzheimer’s Association is grateful to Cheryl and other donors who sponsor matching gifts, as well as all who respond to the match challenges. To join Cheryl in supporting the work of the Alzheimer’s Association, visit our website or call 800.272.3900.
Cheryl’s story was originally shared in the Spring/Summer 2016 issue of the Alzheimer’s Association Aspire Philanthropy Magazine.