Bay Area companies engage in friendly competition for good cause

For the past two years companies across the Bay Area competed to raise the most funds for the Alzheimer’s Association, as part of the Walk to End Alzheimer’s Corporate Challenge. These companies create their own teams, raise funds and come together on Walk day to show their support in the fight against Alzheimer’s.

While Walk may look a little different this year, it doesn’t stop these amazing companies from working their way up the leaderboard to earn the title of Corporate Challenge Champion. Ian Murray, one of the founders of the Corporate Challenge, shared his story at the 2020 Leadership summit hosted for Alzheimer’s Association staff and volunteers.

Ian and his Gran who had Alzheimer's
Ian and his gran

Four family members with dementia
When Ian was a boy, he and his mom went to visit his gran who was living with dementia. “My mom brought Gran, her mom, some daffodils. Gran took the flowers, put them in a vase, took out the scissors and cut the heads off. I asked my mom, ‘Why did Gran do that?’ Her answer was, ‘she’s confused.’”

This was Ian’s first experience with dementia, but unfortunately, not his last. Ian’s mother became the caregiver for her mom, and eventually the caregiver for Ian’s dad as well. In addition to his grandmother and father, Ian’s aunt and uncle on his mother’s side would later be diagnosed with dementia.

Ian shares that, sadly, his promise flower is now full. Having four family members with dementia drove Ian to find a solution for a problem that greatly affected his family.

Walk to End Alzheimer's Promise flowers and their meanings
Ian talks about Walk to End Alzheimer's in front of industry leaders
Ian talking about Walk

Bringing his company into Walk
Ian works for Cisco Systems, Inc., a well-known multinational technology conglomerate based in Silicon Valley. Ian’s first exposure to Walk to End Alzheimer’s was in 2014 when a coworker invited him to join her team.

“It was a massive team that year,” joked Ian. “Five people (and a dog!) showed up. While our team was small, I realized how big this event was. A seed was planted and I wanted to do more.”

The next year, Ian became the team’s co-captain. Driven to get more people on their team they set up a table in the cafeteria and another one in the lobby. He and his co-captain would talk to people who walked by, sharing their personal connection with Alzheimer’s. To Ian’s surprise, he found many others had a connection to the disease as well.

“I knew I could do more, so we established an employee group across the company to share information,” shared Ian. “It included resources on care and support and how to contact the Alzheimer’s Association. Raising awareness became a passion for me.” The following year, Ian’s company became a national team partner.

Cisco been voted one of the top ten best places to work in the world. Cisco offers a program that empowers their employees to make a difference in the community, which made it very easy for Ian to connect with his fellow coworkers and expand his team. However, Ian wanted more, so a competition was born.

Walk to End Alzheimer's Corporate Challenge Panel
2019 Corporate Challenge panel

For the love of competition
Alzheimer’s is a leading cause of death in California, and there are more than 132,000 people in the Bay Area living with Alzheimer’s. Many who are caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or another dementia work at big companies, like Cisco.

“We need and love competition in the Bay Area,” said Ian. “Prior to the pandemic, I used to commute from San Francisco to San Jose. I would see all these companies and wonder, why aren’t they a part of Walk to End Alzheimer’s? We need to get these companies involved and create some friendly competition.”

In 2018, Ian and his Alzheimer’s Association staff partner, along with other Silicon Valley giants, Amazon and VMware, began contacting personal and professional contacts and inviting them to be a part of their new competition, the Corporate Challenge.

Corporate Challenge success
Ian and his team invited these companies to a happy hour, where they explained the importance of Walk and how his company supported him in growing his team. He also shared how the Alzheimer’s Association uses the money raised towards care, support, research and advocacy efforts. That year 20 teams sign up, raising over $130,000.

“I knew we could do better,” said Ian. “Last year [in 2019], we expanded to three Walks. We held the kickoff in the new Salesforce Tower in San Francisco. Not only did we get new teams, we also got some new corporate sponsors for each of the Walks.”

In 2019, 27 teams participated in the Corporate Challenge and together they raised over $300,000.

Ian and some team members at the Silicon Valley Walk to End Alzheimer’s

Be a part of something bigger
Ian hopes the Corporate Challenge will continue to grow and he encourages other companies to join. “Get all of your contacts, and if they’re not a part of the Corporate Challenge, ask them to get involved,” said Ian. “I want to see some competition. Every corporate team starts as a team of one. I hope to see more companies on my commute that are involved with Walk.”

While it is too late to find a cure for Ian’s Gran and dad, it is not too late for future generations. “All of this started because I wanted to do more, and I knew I could,” said Ian. “Together, we have a chance to change the world. What more can we do to end Alzheimer’s?”

To view Ian’s entire video visit our youtube site.

Interested in learning more about how your company can help in the fight against Alzheimer’s? Sign up for our upcoming virtual conversation on Alzheimer’s in the Workplace: The Impact on Employee Caregivers and their Employers.

To register your company team for the Corporate Challenge, fill out the Get Your Company Involved questionnaire, or contact Ondine Boulter at oboulter@alz.org.

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