Bay Area volunteers share why they love The Longest Day
Our volunteers are passionate, inspired, and are making a difference in the fight to end Alzheimer’s disease. This is especially true for The Longest Day committee volunteers who are continuing to encourage and support participants as they adapt their events. Three volunteers told us what they love about The Longest Day.
Volunteers and The Longest Day
The Longest Day is the day with the most light — the summer solstice. On June 20, people from across the world come together to fight the darkness of Alzheimer’s through a fundraising activity of their choice.
While individuals plan and host their own events throughout the year, volunteers are needed to support and encourage participants. “Our volunteers are the backbone for The Longest Day,” said Kirsten Guanella, Constituent Events Manager. “They help with everything from sharing our mission and coaching fundraising events to administrative and operational tasks. We could not support each participant without the help of these amazing volunteers.”
Nancy and Bart Westcott
When Nancy and Bart Westcott’s brother-in-law was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2006, they were already well connected with the Alzheimer’s Association. “When I started learning about the disease through the Alzheimer’s Association, I came to realize the emotional and financial impact on families,” said Nancy. “It’s really devastating for those that are losing their loved one day by day with no cure. I knew this was something I had to lend my support to.”
Nancy is currently Vice Chair of the Northern California and Northern Nevada Board of Directors. She helped connect the Arthur Murray Dance Studios, now a Global Team for The Longest Day, with the Association. Nancy and her husband Bart were later recruited to be co-chairs for The Longest Day committee.
“Being on the committee has been such a pleasure and an incredibly rich and fulfilling experience for me. I love the fact that anyone who wants to make a difference in regard to Alzheimer’s disease, can do so in an incredibly creative way. They can pursue their own passions and raise money to honor someone they love.”
When Ben learned about The Longest Day, he loved the fact that he could use this fundraiser as a way to connect with family members who live overseas. His grandmother, who has Alzheimer’s, currently lives in Germany. The Longest Day gave Ben the opportunity to honor his grandmother and raise funds for the Association.
The next year, Ben became the committee chair and served in that role for two years. “I helped recruit volunteers and teams and did coaching calls,” said Ben. “I’d visit participants’ events as the official representative of the Alzheimer’s Association.
“I love The Longest Day because it’s so different than any event I’ve ever seen. It spoke to me in terms of creativity and the freedom people have to do what they want to do and then turn it into a fundraiser. They’re doing something good for their community and the people that they love.
“I like being a part of The Longest Day because it has helped me grow as a person and learn new things. This is the perfect scenario where people can learn something new while they’re having fun doing something good.”
Currently, Ben is a member of the golf subcommittee, where he provides tips and assistance to anyone who plans to host a golf-related event for The Longest Day.
Sharon Rohwer’s mom has been living with Alzheimer’s for 10 years. Two years ago, Sharon made the difficult decision to move her mom into a care facility. That, coupled with a career change, gave Sharon time to volunteer for the Alzheimer’s Association.
In January of 2020, Kirsten reached out and asked if Sharon would be interested in volunteering for The Longest Day committee as the Marketing and Outreach Chair. “It has been so helpful; it has given me focus and made a huge difference in my life,” said Sharon. “This is a wonderful way to feel connected and like I’m doing something.
“The Longest Day has helped to get me out of my comfort zone. It has been scary but incredibly rewarding. I don’t like to ask people for things like help or money but being a volunteer has helped me find a way to do that. I’ve been so blown away by the positive responses I’ve received from people.”
Getting creative at home
The majority of participants may choose to hold their activity on The Longest Day, but you can participate on any day that works for you. During this time of social-distancing, fundraising to #endalz presents an opportunity for your community to join together virtually, while physically apart. Take your party, run, or golf outing virtual.
While the Alzheimer’s Association has temporarily suspended all in-person events, it hasn’t stopped participants of The Longest Day from continuing to fundraise virtually. “We’ve seen a lot of success with Facebook fundraisers,” said Ben. “There are things you can still do like a virtual movie night or a virtual happy hour. Instead of being at the movies or at a bar you’re at home with webcams but you still feel like you’re with people.”
For those who are still planning on hosting a physical event later in the year, Ben encourages them to take this time to start planning. “Jot down thoughts and ideas for later,” says Ben. “You can test out some potential dates and get them on the calendar. Hopefully by June we’ll be able to get back out there.”
While fundraising is a necessity, the people who make up our communities are even more important. Our volunteers have been calling participants to check in on them. “Right now, it’s all about support and to make sure our community is doing okay,” shared Ben. “It’s our job to give them the support they need.”
Seeing fundraising dollars at work
The Alzheimer’s Association is the largest nonprofit funder of Alzheimer’s disease research in the world. The Northern California and Northern Nevada Chapter is lucky enough to have several Alzheimer’s Association research grant recipients in our region.
Ben attended a research grant check presentation at UCSF a few years ago. He was able to witness his fundraising dollars at work. “The researcher showed us a presentation of his research,” said Ben. “It was over my head, but I got to see the donations change hands from the Alzheimer’s Association to someone doing the research. A lot of smaller donations add up very quickly and I’ve seen that happen in the time I’ve been volunteering.”
Volunteering for the Alzheimer’s Association
One of the many great things about The Longest Day is its flexibility, both in location (you can volunteer from your home), and in the time commitment (you can dedicate as much or as little time as you’d like). “The committee is so flexible,” said Sharon. “I’m the kind of person who likes to give 100% but I never feel like I have to put in a ton of time.”
The Longest Day is one of many ways where volunteers help lead the efforts of the Alzheimer’s Association. “That’s what I appreciate about the Alzheimer’s Association,” said Nancy. “There are ways that we as volunteers can plug into everything from research to support services and everything in between.”
Kirsten is incredibly grateful for the help and support she receives every day from her volunteers. “I need more volunteers like Nancy, Bart, Ben and Sharon. They are amazing and I would not be able to do my job without them. I am constantly learning from them, and in some ways, I consider them my mentors.
“I know each and every one of our volunteers has a story. They have busy lives outside of the organization and yet, our volunteers care so deeply for our mission and the work we are doing that they are willing to take time out of their days to move the mission forward. For that I am so thankful.”