Top nationwide fundraiser helps others feel connected
When Lynn McKenna’s father started experiencing memory loss in the 1960s, Lynn and her mother found themselves alone, without access to help or resources. More than 50 years later, Lynn joined the Walk Committee and became one of the top 10 fundraisers nationwide. She shares her fundraising tips and how she uses her role to make sure her community has access to dementia resources.
Memory loss for dad
After a series of grand mal seizures in January of 1966, Lynn McKenna’s dad started showing signs of memory loss. While the term “Alzheimer’s disease” was named in 1910, it wasn’t until the 1980s that Alzheimer’s disease became more widely known. Because of this, doctors were unable to explain why Lynn’s dad was having problems with memory loss.
Lynn and her mother spent the next 30 years caring for Lynn’s dad. At the time, there weren’t any resources or support available to them. It wasn’t until the 1990s that the doctors suggested Lynn’s dad had dementia. Lynn said, “Our family just learned to live with my dad’s memory loss.”
Finding the Walk
In 2017, Lynn’s friend Doug mentioned that he was volunteering for the then Eureka Walk to End Alzheimer’s (now Walk to End Alzheimer’s®– Humboldt County). The Walk needed volunteers, and he asked Lynn if she would be interested in helping.
Lynn said, “When I learned what the Alzheimer’s Association® was doing to find a cure and the resources they had available to help people, I decided I wanted to join in the fight”. “After that uplifting experience, I joined the committee and became part of the Advocacy Committee with Doug. When he retired, I agreed to become the Advocacy Chair, which is the position I still hold.”
Becoming a top fundraiser
Soon after Lynn joined the Walk Committee she was asked to join the Visiting Angels Eureka Walk team by her friend Jeanne. Jeanne, Lynn and fellow team member Lori came up with some great ways to raise funds:
Some restaurants give nonprofits a percentage of their revenue for one night if you advertise your event and bring in new customers to their restaurant. Jeanne, Lynn and Lori raised over $300 their first time doing a restaurant takeover and continued to find other restaurants who participated in programs like this.
A local hardware store was kind enough to allow Lynn, Lori and Jeanne to have a bake sale at their store. The women raised over $800.
Lynn wrote letters not only to friends and family asking for donations to her Walk team, but also to private foundations within the community and received a great response.
The women also found people and local businesses willing to donate items for auctions and Opportunity Drawings. Lynn, Lori and Jeanne raised more than $2,000 with all of the proceeds going towards their team and the Walk to End Alzheimer’s.
Lynn and Jeanne signed up for fundraising programs through companies such as See’s Candy Yum Raisin program. People buy products they already love and a portion of the proceeds go towards an organization of their choice.
In 2021, Lynn and Jeanne raised over $100,000 and finished among the top 100 fundraisers nationwide. This made the Visiting Angels Eureka team the 17th highest nationwide. “When it comes to fundraising, you need to be creative,” said Lynn. “We advertise our events on local radio stations, newspapers, social media and hand out flyers. Make sure it’s a fun event and ask friends and family to join.”
Because of Lynn’s previous experience with dementia, it’s no surprise that her favorite part of her job as Advocacy Chair is sharing resources with the community. “I reach out to different service clubs, groups from underserved populations and the general public,” said Lynn. “I let them know there is help and resources available for them to use. I find this the most rewarding part of my job.”
Lynn ends any conversation about the Alzheimer’s Association or Walk with a reminder that help is available at the Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 Toll-Free Helpline (800.272.3900). “I don’t want anyone to have to navigate the difficult journey of living with Alzheimer’s by themselves like my mom and I did,” said Lynn. “There are great resources and help available today thanks to the Alzheimer’s Association. You need to educate and inform people what’s available and where to find it.”
While Walk to End Alzheimer’s – Humboldt County has passed, it’s not too late to raise funds. Visiting Angels Eureka is currently in second place and Lynn is in first for fundraising this year. Their fundraiser continues until 9 p.m. PST on November 30.