Spotlight On… Bethany Chamberlin

You might say Bethany Chamberlin was tricked into becoming an ALZ Star. One of Beth’s peers—who shall go unnamed—recommended she run the ALZ Stars half-marathon. Bethany, always up for an adventure, enthusiastically registered for the rigorous program and committed to the ambitious fundraising goal and distance to conquer.

Beth at Eagle Cap in the Whitman National Forest

Fortunately, Beth has never shied away from a challenge. In addition to having defeated the daunting higher-education monster by attaining both Ph.D. in Human Development and Family Sciences writing her Master’s thesis on nursing placement decision making, Beth is a hiker and a snowboarder. And, having just run her first marathon last fall, she’s not letting the ALZ Stars half-marathon intimidate her.

Beth spends as much of the wintertime at Mt. Hood Meadows as possible. She doesn’t just enjoy careening down mountains at breakneck speeds on her snowboard; she also enjoys scaling them on foot. She climbed her first mountain several years ago—just to see what it was like. That mountain was Oregon’s South Sister, a 10,358 volcanic peak that stands as the third-tallest mountain in Oregon. Beth’s next goal is hiking Mt. Saint Helens, which she will complete in early August.

Beth enjoys the outdoors and the adrenaline that accompanies many of the sports she pursues. “My adrenaline seeking activities are fueled by my work with older adults,” she says. “I don’t take any day or any breath for granted and try to live each day to the fullest.”

Beth administers the Oregon STAR-C program, a support project that helps community members caring for a loved one with dementia. The program’s consultants provide caretakers with strategies that decrease difficult behaviors. Sometimes, they even provide respite care. The goal is for this evidence-based program to be successfully translated into the community so that it will be available for future caregivers who will need the service. Beth coordinates all program activities for the grant in Multnomah County.

The Swiss Alps ain't got nothin' on Bethany

The caregiving aspect of STAR-C hits close to home for Bethany, as her Grandpa Cliff was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at age 72. He lived with Alzheimer’s for ten years before passing away at age 82. “I took that experience very seriously,” Beth says about her grandfather’s illness. She was in grad school for Adolescent Development when her grandpa was diagnosed. “I decided to take this direction and help other families who had a relative with dementia,” Beth says.

Her new career path is a great fit. “I was comfortable working in the aging field because my mother is a long-term/Hospice nurse, so I grew up hanging out in nursing homes and even had my first job as a dining room server in an assisted living.”

“I just love to be around older people”, Beth added. “To me, they symbolize experience, wisdom, and inspiration. They have been there, and done that”.

It’s no surprise that someone with such an adventurous and adaptable spirit can so easily roll with the punches.  Her refusal to shy away from the challenges life presents not only led Beth to participate in ALZ Stars—it also led her toward working with people who have Alzheimer’s. STAR-C, the ALZ Stars run and the fight against Alzheimer’s are all stronger because of her.

Help Beth reach her $800 goal — donate to her campaign today

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Spotlight On… Hearthstone at Murrayhill ALZ Stars

On the surface, this group of women has little in common. Whereas Penny Holcomb likes to indulge in the occasional SACSAYHUAMÁN (pronounced”Sexy Woman”) cocktail at the Pearl District’s finest Peruvian dining restaurant Andina, Debbie Hartvickson prefers quilting and playing with her new granddaughter McKenna. Megan Carnahan has a boyfriend of five years, a predilection for sour candy and aspirations of medical school, while Nena Terry has three grown children, an infectious enthusiasm for Boot Camp Fitness classes and a craving for the occasional glass of wine. Their musical preferences range from ABBAto rap to heavy metal to classical.

From left to right: Megan Carnahan, Nena Terry, Penny Holcomb and Debbie Hartvick

Aside from their collective weakness for chocolate, these four women do have something in common: they all work at Hearthstone at Murrayhill, a retirement community in Beaverton. Hearthstone at Murrayhill boasts three distinct divisions: one for independent living, one for assisted living and one for memory care. All three wings exist under one roof, an ingenious design that allows residents to remain comfortably in the same facility as their needs evolve.

The Hearthstone at Murrayhill ALZ Stars—or the “HAM ALZ Stars”, as they refer to themselves—comprise the first and only group entry in the ALZ Stars half-marathon. Perhaps because all four of them participate in the annual, team-based Walk to End Alzheimer’s, they plunged into ALZ Stars with a team mentality. And, as teams are wont to do, they are motivating each other see this endeavor through to completion.

They didn’t commit to the ALZ Stars half-marathon right away. When the invitation to participate first arrived, the four women eyed each other suspiciously. “Is she going to do it?” they wondered about each other. Nena broke the tension when she announced to her friends that she had signed up for the event. After that, Debbie registered. Upon hearing her two friends were signing up for this mysterious “ALZ Stars” thing, Penny decided she wanted in too—before realizing it was a commitment to raise $800 and run a half-marathon (she’s up for the challenge, though). It wasn’t hard to convince Megan to commit after that.

The challenge for these four outstanding women will not be the half-marathon, as all four of them hold physical fitness in high esteem. Penny is a Pilates enthusiast. Both Megan and Nena participate in Boot Camp classes. Debbie has already run four marathons and two half-marathons (congratulate Debbie on her record, though, and she just shrugs; her mother completed 107 marathons in her lifetime, all after turning 59). The biggest challenge about ALZ Stars, they say, is the fundraising. Thankfully, a strong personal and professional connection motivates each of them.

Nena vividly recalls an incident from 1987 in which her grandfather-in-law, who was afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease, wandered and got lost for two days in Los Angeles. This was back before Alzheimer’s diagnoses were common and people considered senility and dementia to being a side-effect of aging.

Megan’s exposure to Alzheimer’s came as a result of her long-time boyfriend’s grandfather, who was affected with the disease and was a resident at Hearthstone at Murrayhill. His condition spurred her interest in practicing medicine, a career path she is currently pursuing.

A stroke triggered dementia in Penny’s mother. Although that experience was hard, it exposed Penny to what she calls the “gifts of dementia”—the positivity that can arise from this otherwise tragic condition.

Debbie is just a nurturer at heart. While running a private home care agency with her husband, she discovered that her calm demeanor and nurturing personality endeared her to potential clients. Although she and her husband eventually sold their business, Debbie transitioned into a similar line of work—community relations—at Hearthstone at Murrayhill.

Despite the challenges posed by ALZ Stars, none of these go-getters allowed themselves to shy away from this opportunity to make an impact in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease. This, coupled with the strong personal motivation, bumped the prospect of participating in ALZ Stars from “I should…” to “how could I not?”

We are lucky to have this eclectic array of outstanding women in this year’s ALZ Stars run, just as Hearthstone at Murrayhill is lucky to have them among its staff.

Help these women end Alzheimer’s – donate to their campaigns today

Megan’s campaign

Debbie’s campaign

Penny’s campaign

Nena’s campaign

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Spotlight On… Pete Achterman

According to legend, after the Greeks defeated the invading Persians in the Battle of Marathon, Pheidippides, a Greek soldier, ran all the way back to Athens without stopping to deliver the news—a grueling, 26.2-mile trek. After arriving, and shortly before dying of exhaustion, he reported the news of the Greek victory to the people of Athens by uttering a Greek word meaning “victory”—Nike.

ALZ Star Pete Achterman

We know this word today because it is not only the name of the world’s most prolific athletics company—a company we are lucky to have stationed here in the Portland/Metro area—but because it has come to represent action, achievement, success and, of course, victory (Nike was also the Greek Goddess of Victory).

It just so happens that one of this year’s ALZ Stars participants, Pete Achterman, works for Nike’s marketing department. Pete specializes in marketing for soccer, one of his favorite sports. His line of work, among other things, involves outfitting soccer players in Nike apparel. This makes Pete’s connection to the sport very up close and personal. “It’s cool to kind of engage in these relationships on the ground floor—and it’s cool seeing my work on TV and in interviews,” Pete said. Although he is supposed to remain neutral since he has clients on soccer teams throughout the country, he admits to having a soft spot for the Portland Timbers.

An avid outdoorsman, Pete is building up to the ALZ Stars half-marathon by participating in the Hood to Coast run this August, a similar test of endurance. The Hood to Coast relay will require Pete to run three separate legs in the longer run, each consisting of five to seven miles, over the course of 24 hours. The ALZ Stars run is Pete’s first half-marathon.

Pheidippides wows the Athenian assembly with his perfect Upward Dog. Luc-Olivier Merson, 1869.

He intends to fare better than poor Pheidippides did.

The ALZ Stars program drew Pete’s attention for a variety of reasons. For one, he loves being active. Two, he achieves the greatest success when he has concrete goals in mind. He says he finds it’s easier to train for a goal rather than running aimlessly on tread mills. Three, and most importantly, is the fact that his mother-in-law was recently diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, plunging him headfirst into the challenging world of dealing with dementia. This is Pete’s first exposure to the disease. “It’s kind of a brand-new thing for me, as no one in my family had it while I was growing up, and not too many folks I knew had it,” Pete said, adding that he never had a face-to-face perspective until now.

Through ALZ Stars, Pete has a way to support his extended family and contribute to ending this debilitating condition. “I’m definitely a greenhorn when it comes to this,” Pete said. “And I might not have the tools to deal with this disease firsthand. I’m not the one who’s ultimately going to make the calls in handling the illness. But, I can be here for support.”

Pete’s participation in this event demonstrates how people on the disease’s periphery can do something to help. One doesn’t need to be an expert on Alzheimer’s to get involved; help is always welcome. All it requires is a heart that wants to do something and the drive to succeed.

Like a marathon, the race to end Alzheimer’s disease will not be easy; it will be a long, arduous journey. However, it will not happen without the support of people like Pete, who are willing to put everything on the line and go that extra distance, despite the difficulty. Recall that even though the first marathon ended with the runner dying from exhaustion, his dying words were “we have won.” Perhaps, with the support of people like Pete, someday we will be able to say the same thing about the battle with Alzheimer’s.

Support Pete’s campaign today – make a donation

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Spotlight On… Sher Johnson

Sher Johnson, the Activity Director at Gilman Park Assisted Living, has taken care of people with Alzheimer’s disease during her entire 20-year career. However, she didn’t realize she had a personal connection to Alzheimer’s until she had her first child.

Sher Johnson

ALZ Star Sher Johnson

Her baby was perfectly healthy. However, because Sher was adopted, she had never met her biological family. Pondering the passage of her genes to another human being spurred an interest in her family’s genealogy, so Sher decided to track down her birth family.

When she found them, Sher discovered that her biological grandmother and great-grandmother both had Alzheimer’s. Learning that her birth father was taking care of his own Alzheimer’s-afflicted mother suddenly made Sher’s career in Memory Care and Assisted Living facilities feel all the more relevant.

Sher has worked in this field since the age of fifteen, when she began volunteering as a candy striper in the elder-care wing of a hospital. She loves her current position at Gilman Park Assisted Living, partly because of the diversity it offers: not only does she get to be on her feet interacting with patients and clients, but she enjoys driving the activity bus. In fact, when she finally had the time to talk about ALZ Stars, she had just dropped off a busload of her residents at a casino for a day of entertainment.

Outside of her job at Gilman, this full-time wife and mother of three acts as a private caregiver and teaches piano. An avid pianist since the age of five, she started teaching others how to play when she was a teenager and has never had difficulty finding clients. She has always found time to play the piano and bring music into retirement homes everywhere she’s lived, ranging from California to Canada. As someone who exudes positivity, Sher’s favorite music to play is not the stuffy old classical music one would expect from a trained pianist. Instead, she prefers “the pretty stuff”—mainly upbeat oldies—which are always a hit when she performs at care facilities.

With the remaining free time she has outside of her three different jobs, Sher is training for the upcoming ALZ Stars half-marathon and planning fundraisers, for which she has some inventive ideas in the works. Sher is hosting a talent show at work in June starring several of her students and other musicians. The performers will donate the proceeds to various charitable causes. Additionally, in July, Sher will be hosting an Activity Director Training Day. She is inviting dozens of peers to enjoy a day of training that will feature guest speakers on topics ranging from the benefits of massage to garden therapy to practical techniques that improve the daily life of an Activity Director. All proceeds from both events will go to the Alzheimer’s Association Oregon Chapter.

Sher credits marathon-guru Hal Higdon for helping her get in marathon-shape. His prescribed training regimen, a twelve-week program that gradually builds up stamina and endurance, is helping her outline a training schedule she can squeeze between her myriad other activities.

You can support this ALZ Star as she strives to reach that 13.1 mile mark through Oregon’s Wine Country this September. Sher has spent much of her life caring for people with Alzheimer’s disease. By helping her raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association, you can help her fund programs that provide this same level and quality of support to countless people throughout the state of Oregon each day.

Support Sher Johnson’s campaign – Donate today

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Spotlight On… Janell Kennedy

Her friends jokingly refer to her as “the Neighborhood Watch”. Not only does ALZ Star Janell Kennedy know everything that’s happening in her neighborhood, but her surveillance has also been known to prevent crime. Just recently, Janell witnessed three teenagers stealing someone’s bike and alerted the police, who caught the culprits and returned the stolen merchandise to its rightful owner.

ALZ Star Janell Kennedy

Fighting crime isn’t the only way this mother of three keeps busy. About two or three years ago, her father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Since then, Janell and her mother have split caretaking duties, but his condition worsened to the point where they could no longer do it on their own. They placed him in a Memory Care facility not far from Janell’s home.

Janell visits her father quite often. Her father doesn’t always recognize her, however—a problem compounded by the fact that Janell now wears glasses, something she didn’t do as a child. Janell’s father recognizes she is someone important to him, and she can comfort him with her voice and an embrace.

Her father’s condition isn’t Janell’s only experience with dementia. Her mother-in-law has Lewy body dementia, a similar condition to Alzheimer’s disease, and, just recently, Janell discovered at a family reunion that several of her cousins have Alzheimer’s as well.

As if these factors weren’t enough motivation participate in ALZ Stars—a half-marathon through Oregon’s wine country that raises funds for Alzheimer’s disease programs, education and research—Janell recently had her own brush with some health issues, which inspired her to get active. Last July, Janell lost a kidney as a result of a stroke. Worse, during the operations that followed, doctors discovered she had a hole in her heart. Luckily, they were able to repair her ticker. Janell now has more energy than she has ever had in her life—so much, in fact, that her doctor was confident—nay, insistent—that she should tackle feats of endurance like marathons. “He expects me to run or walk a half-marathon this year because I no longer have an excuse not to!” Janell said.

After learning about the ALZ Stars program, Janell signed up, hired a personal trainer, and started moving again. She’s working on increasing her stamina and building up her leg muscles in preparation for the big day. Her trainer has also given her a list of smaller runs in the interim to boost her race-day confidence.

Because of her personal connection to Alzheimer’s disease, Janell has found that many of her close friends have contributed to her cause without hesitation. “When you have something that is so dear and close to your heart, and you’re going out and getting donations, your friends and neighbors don’t hesitate,” Janell said. “They just ask, ‘how much do you want?’”

In addition to monetary contributions from her close friends, Janell has found support in the form of running buddies and motivation. Some of her closest friends accompany her on runs and plan on being there on race day to see her across the finish line. What really gets her going, though, are some of the motivational songs she has on her iPod. “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns N’ Roses in particular has helped her tackle some of her neighborhood’s more strenuous hills, but the motivational contribution inspired by the Foo Fighters is not to be overlooked.

In what little free time she has remaining after her crime-fighting duties, Janell “Neighborhood Watch” Kennedy enjoys volunteering at the Oregon Food Bank, helping out at her kids’ schools, gardening and cooking. In the end, though, her family comes first—including her father. “One thing that really helps me with being a daughter and a caregiver is that although there isn’t anything I can do for them like giving blood, that doesn’t mean I have to be a victim. By doing something like volunteering or fundraising, I can contribute something in their honor,” Janell said. “And if a 45-year-old lady who’s had a stroke and heart surgery can do this, anyone can!”

Support Janell’s campaign today – make a donation

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