Around the world, people will come together to fight the darkness of Alzheimer’s Disease with light on The Longest Day.
The annual Alzheimer’s Association event is marked on the June 20 summer solstice; at 16 hours, that day is the longest of the year with the most amount of light.
“The Longest Day is such a wonderful event,” said Meg DiPanni, vice president of development for the Alzheimer’s Association Delaware Valley Chapter. “I think the beauty of it is, it’s really a fundraising event that is able to be tailored to the individual person.”
The Longest Day gives participants the opportunity to take part in whatever activity they choose. Some host golf tournaments, group hikes or team runs. Others get more creative, whipping up purple foods and baked goods or planting a garden of forget-me-not flowers.
The activities are different, but the goal is the same: to fundraise for the Alzheimer’s Association and raise awareness of the disease.
While the event is marked on June 20, most participants fundraise for months or even throughout the year. Fundraising totals are tallied in August.
While the Walk to End Alzheimer’s is the association’s biggest fundraiser, The Longest Day has been gaining traction. The nature of the event also made it highly adaptable to the pandemic and its related closings. Participants turned to the virtual realm to fundraise and publicize their efforts.
Most participants are celebrating a loved one through their participation. Such is the case with the Steitz family.
After seeing a number of Lyme Disease specialists, it was finally suggested Chatsworth resident Carol Steitz get a brain scan. The 52-year-old was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s and the dimentia progressed aggressively. Steitz was 58 when she passed away in January.
Her family – husband Mark and sons Adam and Mark Jr. – reached out to the Alzheimer’s Association about two-and-a-half years ago to get involved. They decided to take part in The Longest Day for 2020, and because the nature of Adam’s job involves extensive networking, he organized a huge March Madness event.
Despite activities going virtual during the pandemic, the Steitz family still raised $2,500 last year. They kept things virtual this year as well, but having more time to prepare helped their fundraising skyrocket. Right now, their total raised is $8,000; Adam’s goal is $10,000.
“I’m just very lucky to have a big network through work. I’m very fortunate to be surrounded by people who are very giving,” he said.
Adam shares his mom’s story through the fundraiser, and many participants can relate. With six million Americans living with the disease and 11 million serving as unpaid caregivers, it’s no wonder.
In its inaugural year in 2014, The Longest Day raised more than $36 million from thousands of participants across the country. Last year, the Alzheimer’s Association Delaware Valley Chapter raised $141,000; this year’s goal is $150,000.
“Even during the pandemic, last year we raised more money than we did in 2019. The community really rallied around us and they used The Longest Day to stay engaged because they could still do it virtually,” DiPanni noted. “They used it as a way to come together in a time when they couldn’t physically come together.”
DiPanni said it’s also encouraging to see how many young people get involved. Every year, the Cherry Hill High School East soccer team hosts a fundraiser and walks on campus. In the Delware County area, Villa Maria Academy High School in Malvern, Pennsylvania, hosted a virtual event.
“To be able to see young adults understand the impact of this disease … to see them rise above, to see their engagement and passion in making a difference, it’s certainly been very inspiring to me,” DiPanni said.
Adam Steitz hopes his family will hit its $10,000 fundraising goal by June 20, but with a deadline of August and his mother’s birthday on July 20, he is comfortable going past the summer solstice with his efforts.
“It feels amazing that it’s a tribute, in honor of my mom,” he said. “The important message is raising awareness, fighting for something that is close to my heart and just carrying on my mom’s legacy.”
To learn more or get involved, visit https://act.alz.org and choose “The Longest Day.” For information about Alzheimer’s Association support services, visit www.alz.org. To support the Steitz family’s fundraiser, visit http://act.alz.org/goto/Carol_Steitz.