Chico super volunteer does it all
What started off as a one-time volunteer opportunity, helping at an Alzheimer’s Association education conference, has become a passion project for Sue Warwick of Chico. Over the past year and a half, Sue has become involved with many different parts of the Association’s work.
Traveling with Don
Sue and her husband Don were married for 48 years. “He was funny, enjoyed a good laugh and told corny jokes,” Sue shared. “When he lost all of his emotions, I knew something was wrong.”
When Don was diagnosed with dementia in 2006, Sue made the decision to retire early. They had always wanted to travel. “We were able to travel a lot after his diagnosis,” shared Sue. “He really enjoyed it.”
Their last trip together before Don passed in 2016 was to the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco. “I asked Don if he was having fun and he said, ‘I know if I’m with you I’m having fun.’” remembered Sue. “He couldn’t remember what we did, but he knew we’d had fun.”
Sharing her wisdom with others
After her husband’s death, Sue decided she wanted to give back to the Alzheimer’s Association. “I dealt with the trauma of Alzheimer’s for so long,” shares Sue. “I thought it would be fun to do something from the other side.”
In March of 2018 Sue went to a volunteer mixer in Chico where she met Association staff and other volunteers. “I got an application and turned it in the next day,” shared Sue. “It’s been fun since then.”
Starting as a registration volunteer for the Chico education conference, Sue has helped out in several areas of the Association’s work.
Sue the super volunteer participates in the following activities:
- Community representative – Sue goes to local health fairs and helps set up a table on behalf of the Alzheimer’s Association. She chats with people who approach the table, answering questions and sharing her personal story.
- Administrative support – Sue calls caregivers and reminds them about their upcoming support group.
- Advocate – Sue participates in Advocacy Day, where Alzheimer’s advocates from all over the state gather in Sacramento to speak with their legislators about Alzheimer’s. Sue also writes letters to the editor and sends notes to her Congressional representative. She has also joined the Alzheimer’s Impact Movement.
- Walk volunteer – Sue helps at a designated station on Walk day. Last year she worked at the volunteer tent, checking in fellow volunteers.
- Community educator – Starting in October, Sue will be presenting the 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s education program in her community.
Sue’s favorite task is sharing information about the Alzheimer’s Association at community health fairs. “People seem to open up more if they know you’ve been through it.” Shares Sue. “I enjoy getting to know all of the people.”
Never alone on Walk day
Last year at Walk, Sue not only helped out at the volunteer tent, she was also asked to be a part of the stage program. She held up a purple flower, representing all who have lost a loved one to Alzheimer’s and related disorders.
“I was on the stage when they asked everyone in the audience with a purple flower to hold them up,” shared Sue. “I looked out and saw all the purple flowers and didn’t feel alone anymore.”
There are many reasons to come together on Walk day. For some it’s to raise funds to find a cure, for others it’s a reminder that you are not alone on this journey. For Sue it’s an opportunity to raise awareness about the disease.
“It’s the second leading cause of death in California,” warns Sue, “yet it doesn’t get the publicity that other diseases get.”
Sue also finds that Walk gives caregivers and persons living with Alzheimer’s an opportunity to ask questions and learn more about the education and support that is available to them. “Caregivers need to be aware of where their loved one is headed so they can be prepared,” said Sue. “It makes life easier if you pre-plan.”
You can join Sue’s team, Wick’s Walkers, or form your own team and join us for the Chico Walk to End Alzheimer’s on October 12 at Sycamore Field in Bidwell Park. Not in Chico? Find the Walk to End Alzheimer’s near you at alz.org/walk.