I started volunteering with the Alzheimer’s Association Minnesota-North Dakota Chapter around 2016, a few years after my dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. I wanted to learn more about the disease and find support in others impacted by it while also helping advocate and fundraise.
I also wanted to volunteer to help individuals with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers impacted by this disease. My mom had a hard time finding the right care for my dad at his stage of the disease, especially in the rural area where she lives. I also wanted to help others in a similar situation.
Written by: Katy Zillmer, Guest Blog Contributor
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Katy and Young Champions volunteer and friend Natalie Conrad volunteering at the Purple Gala 2021 at Allianz Field.
Shortly after I started volunteering with the Alzheimer’s Association, the volunteer coordinator connected me to their Young Champions group – a group of young professionals in their 20s and 30s committed to building community and awareness around Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.
In 2018, I had the opportunity to go with the Young Champions to the Alzheimer’s Association’s National Advocacy Conference in Washington, D.C., where I learned valuable skills to help make Alzheimer’s disease a national priority. I also had the opportunity to meet a group of extraordinary young professionals who, like me, have had their lives impacted by Alzheimer’s.
The need for volunteering is to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s disease and help more people impacted by it find the support they need. Through the Alzheimer’s Association Young Champions, we do all sorts of great things for the community, such as fundraisers, educational events, advocacy, and volunteering with people living with this disease.
As part of our community outreach, we recently volunteered at English Rose, where we had the opportunity to spend time with some of the residents and their caregivers making bird feeders. We chose to make bird feeders because we knew it would allow us to spend quality time with the residents.
We enjoyed seeing the residents engage, in the way they could, with both the activity and with us. It reinforced the importance of having visitors and new people to talk with, especially people who understand what they, their families, and their caregivers are going through.
This type of engagement is essential for people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias because it provides an opportunity to interact and express themselves socially. It also gives caregivers, and family members added support for their loved ones.
Katy and other Young Champions volunteering at English Rose.
The work of the Alzheimer’s Association, and volunteers like those in the Young Champions group, is so important for two reasons:
(1) It sheds light on this devastating disease and the progress made to date in research, advocacy, and finding a cure.
(2) It provides an opportunity for people suffering from the disease, and their family, friends, and caregivers, to find support and connections while engaging in positive activities and social interactions.
Katy and her family (brother-in-law Jack, sister Carla, nephew Woody, and niece June) at the Walk to End Alzheimer’s.
When volunteering or fundraising with Young Champions, I always think of my dad and how it would have helped him. I continue to do this important work because I want to extend that opportunity to others. I encourage anyone interested to join me.
For more information and to get involved with the Alzheimer’s Association Young Champions, visit https://www.alz.org/mnnd/volunteer/young_champions
Guest Blog Contributor
Katy Zillmer is a volunteer with the Alzheimer’s Association Minnesota-North Dakota Chapter Young Champions. She is a communications manager for ACA International and, in addition to volunteering, she enjoys yoga, spending time with family and friends, movies and hanging with her cat, Roman.