New Stockton Walk team tops the fundraising charts

By Prabhjeet Kaur

Brookside Walkers and Friends started out as a small team of dedicated friends and family participating in the Stockton Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Now, with more than 60 team members spanning all over Stockton, they are one of the top 20 Walk fundraising teams in the United States. Team Captain, Annette Stephens, shares her secret to success on how to raise funds and build a top team.

Getting involved with Walk to End Alzheimer’s®
While this year isn’t Annette’s first year as a walker, it is her first time being a Team Captain. In 2016, Annette walked with a friend who had recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. When she called to give her support, Annette laced up her sneakers and joined him and his wife in the Walk.

Annette Stephens, Team Captain of the Brookside Walkers and Friends Walk to End Alzheimer's team
Annette Stephens

Annette has several close friends who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and recently found out that a family member is living with the disease. As luck would have it, a fellow bridge club member mentioned that a friend of hers needed help with Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

Seeing this as an opportunity to support the cause, Annette agreed to meet with Teresa Mandella, the Committee Chair, to see how she could help. “I met with Teresa and Cheryl Schrock, the Walk Manager,” said Annette.

“I love being behind the scenes and helping where I’m needed.” Teresa and Cheryl suggested she started a team, which Annette happily agreed to.

Starting her team
At first, Annette was just recruiting her neighbors. She named her team The Brookside Gold 9ers, after the name of her golf group. As word of mouth spread, it began to include other friends, family members and friends of friends.

As her team expanded to include people from outside of her neighborhood, Annette decided to change the team name to Brookside Walkers and Friends. As her team members invite others to join them, Brookside Walkers and Friends continues to grow. As of the posting of this blog, she has more than 60 team members.

“When someone joins my team, I give them a purple post-it pad that says, ‘go team,’” said Annette. “I give them a purple Alzheimer’s Association® bracelet to welcome them to the team. Then I send a personal note thanking them for joining the team.

“The acknowledgement is important. It doesn’t cost that much, and it shows that you value people and need their help.”

Spreading awareness
Annette takes every opportunity she can to talk about Walk to End Alzheimer’s. She never misses a chance to educate others about the disease and the impact it has on families. The tool she utilizes the most? Promise Garden Flowers.

Promise Garden Flowers represent each participant’s connection to Alzheimer’s — their reason for wanting to end the disease.

With help from Cheryl at the Alzheimer’s Association, Annette was able to give new team members in her neighborhood the Promise Garden Flowers to “plant” in their courtyard.

 “There are 105 houses in my community and half of them are displaying Promise Garden Flowers,” shared Annette. “This is how we’re spreading awareness in our community.”

Once the Promise Garden Flowers are “planted,” Annette takes pictures of her neighbors’ yard and posts them on Facebook. This both celebrates their efforts and encourages others to join her team.

Starting a conversation
When Annette first started her personal fundraising, her goal was $500. She soon realized she’d set the bar too low. She began reaching out to friends and family, once again using the Promise Garden Flowers as a way to talk about Walk to End Alzheimer’s. She also used the Facebook fundraiser tool as a way to make it easy for people to donate.

Annette’s conversations about the flowers encouraged a friend to do a give back event at his new restaurant, donating 20% of the proceeds. She was even able to convince her financial advisor to donate and got his company to match that donation.

These simple conversations helped Annette surpass her new goal of $10,000. As of the posting of this blog, Annette personally has raised more than $13,000.

Fundraising for Walk to End Alzheimer's
Restaurant Fundraiser

Climbing mountains
Annette isn’t the only person raising funds for Brookside Walkers and Friends. If you look at the members of Annette’s team, you’ll see that almost every one of them has raised at least $50, if not more.

Annette’s team members have different reasons for raising funds. Some have a connection to the disease and others are doing it because they know the cause is an important one. “I have one girl on my team who raised $1,300 in honor of her grandmother,” shared Annette. “Another woman whose father has Alzheimer’s raised $1,100, and she just joined.”

Knowing her team is made up go-getters she set a lofty goal of $20,000, using the analogy of a lofty Half Dome climb in Yosemite. It wasn’t long until the team had surpassed that goal.

Keeping to the mountain climbing theme, Annette upped the goal to another lofty climb analogy naming Mount Whitney, asking for a daring $35,000. Once again, they surpassed this number.  When this blog began, they were in the midst of their newest mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest single free standing mountain in the world. Setting the monetary goal at $50,000.

Team Brookside Walkers and Friends took this challenge in stride and has already surpassed it once again, raising more than $52,000 to date. Annette is currently looking for her next mountain to climb.

Where the money goes
The funds raised through Walk to End Alzheimer’s benefit those affected by Alzheimer’s disease in our communities. From individual support to online education programs and promising research initiatives, the money being raised helps the Alzheimer’s Association improve the lives of those facing Alzheimer’s.

“My team is number thirteen [peaking at number nine for a period of time] for fundraising in the nation,” said Annette. “Getting the word out and having support from the Alzheimer’s Association has really helped my team. It’s important for people to know that 77% of money raised at Walk to End Alzheimer’s goes primarily towards Alzheimer’s research and care.”

Overall, Annette is proud that her incredible team and community have done such a great job at raising so much money for the Association.

Brookside Walkers hold promise garden flowers for Walk to End Alzheimer's
Brookside Walkers and Friends

Walking near her neighbors
Walk to End Alzheimer’s participants will not be coming together in one big group as we have in past, due to the pandemic. Instead, the Alzheimer’s Association is asking people to walk with friends and family in their local communities, which is exactly what Annette and her team are doing.

Annette and her neighbors will meet in small groups, following social distancing guidelines. There are several routes inside their community, and they can choose whichever one they’d like. This includes a route that takes them past the view-only Promise Garden.

“For friends and people that can’t walk, they’ll be able to ride in a golf cart to be present and raise awareness,” shared Annette. “Additionally, I have friends who will be riding their bicycles, spreading the word in our community.”

Annette is looking forward to seeing her community come together to celebrate and support Walk. She and a neighbor will be setting up a water and snack station in their driveways. Both Annette and her neighbor will be following CDC guidelines while handing out these snacks in order to maintain the safety of their neighbors walking in their community.

Starting your own team
Annette’s suggestion on the best way to start a team: Just do it.

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” said Annette. “If someone says ‘no’ to being on your team, that’s okay. Everyone has different reasons as to why they can or can’t participate, so just ask. I was nervous at first, but I had a commitment from a couple of people beforehand. If you keep asking, eventually a friend will ask a friend and it just works out.”

You can join Annette’s Top 20 team, Brookside Walkers and Friends, or form your own team and join us for the Stockton Walk to End Alzheimer’s on October 17. In 2020 Walk is everywhere – on every sidewalk, track and trail. Not near Stockton? Register today at alz.org/walk to find out more about being a part of Walk in your community.

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