The best time to volunteer? Now: Amanda and Christyna’s story.

Walk to End Alzheimer’s® is a community driven event. This means that, behind the scenes, a group of incredible volunteers dedicate their time each year to bring us together for the world’s leading event to raise funds and awareness for Alzheimer’s care, support and research.

Both Christyna Hengstler and Amanda McCallum are celebrating their second year on the Walk to End Alzheimer’s SW Washington volunteer committee. They first volunteered as event-day support in 2019 and knew that they wanted to get further involved.

Christyna is our Team Retention Chair, helping our passionate Walk to End Alzheimer’s team captains with tips, resources and reminders throughout the season. Amanda is our Sponsorship Chair, meaning that she works with businesses in the community – who also made a huge impact in this cause. They both bring energy, with a sprinkle of purple sparkle, to their roles on the committee. When needed, they jump in with their purple wigs and glitter!

What is your connection to Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia?

Christyna: I watched my grandma slowly slip away over the last several years, due to dementia. Sometimes she knew me, other times I was a nice lady stopping by to visit. She died in the fall of 2020. COVID-19 prevented us from saying goodbye to each other. I’m grateful that she had caregivers that loved her and were with her through the end of her journey. She may not have remembered me…but I was hers, and she was mine…and that will never be forgotten.

Amanda: Sixteen years ago my immediate family moved to Vancouver from Bellevue and my parents Ed and Eileen followed about two years later.  I mention this because it was the start of my journey with Alzheimer’s.  My mom, Eileen, was diagnosed after a critical surgery that left her brain tired and failing from dementia. We did not expect this and did not know anything about Alzheimer’s. She later passed from the disease and her little brother Ron just passed last month, also from dementia. My father-in-law currently has it and lives in an adult family home for his care.

What do you want others to know about dementia?

Christyna: Alzheimer’s is an equal opportunity disease, and it doesn’t care who you are or what it does to your family. It’s terrible and bad. Let’s find a cure!

Amanda: You cannot plan or prepare for it. It is not selective and does not play favorites. It comes with no invitation. We can pay attention to our cognitive health and take care of ourselves. We can learn to be patient for those with the disease. We can educate ourselves on lifestyle and care options. We can hold serious hope that we will find a cure!

How did you learn about Walk to End Alzheimer’s?

Christyna: I work with the greatest colleague ever, Amanda! We help each other and support families to find the right housing for their loved one. Many times, we are working with people with dementia. We’ve seen how dementia affects everyone involved. It’s so hard. We knew that the Alzheimer’s Association was a great resource for families and we wanted to raise awareness in our local area. We both have been personally impacted by this disease. We have a heart for helping. So here we are! At our first Walk event, we volunteered to hand out water and snacks. It was brilliant!

Amanda: This is my second year being involved with the Walk to End Alzheimer’s planning committee. However, I heard about the Walk first from my daughter Emily. (I actually have 3). Emily was the VP of Philanthropy of her sorority, Sigma Kappa.  For two years, Emily led her sorority to record-breaking fundraising and placed fifth in the nation for her efforts with her fundraising.  Her second youngest sister, Claire, joined her in volunteering at the Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Spokane when they both ended up at the same college, Washington State University

What is your favorite part of volunteering for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s?

Christyna: It’s great to be able to share resources with families. No one has to go through this dementia journey alone. Also, I like purple. It’s a good match! My network has also expanded quite a bit. It is great to spend time with people who share your same values, care and concern for a cause. It feels good.

Amanda: Seeing everyone come together, for sure!  As we know, every single case is different like a snowflake, but when we are all together for one day for one cause it seems more acceptable and common.  I also love it when someone shares an experience with another, they find they too have just had that same moment.

What makes SW Washington special in the fight to end Alzheimer’s?

Christyna: The residents of Vancouver really support our efforts in this fight. Many people have been touched by Alzheimer’s and other dementias in some way. Thank you, SW Washington!

Amanda: We are a small BIG town. There are a lot of individuals and local businesses involved to support this cause because it is so important to our community.  When people take the time to gather for a cause you know it’s important in our community.

What advice would you give to those who want to make a difference?

Christyna: Volunteer! Say yes. There is always something that can be done to raise awareness and funds.

Amanda: Everyone can help. Volunteer time for an event. Volunteer to be on the planning committee. Start your own walk team to raise awareness. Everything is appreciated.

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