This article was originally published in 2018. The Lake Chelan Memory Cup will be hosted again on June 20, 2021 in Chelan, Washington. Click here for more information.
“When my father was first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, I wanted to immediately find ways to impact the cause. I am also an ex-Seahawk and NFL football player, making brain health something I am committed to understanding.” – David Kirtman, Board Member, Alzheimer’s Association Washington State Chapter
David Kirtman’s father, Louis Kirtman, was one of five children born and raised in the segregated South. His family moved to San Francisco in the 1950s, where Louis was admitted to and graduated from the esteemed Lowell High School. He was the first person in his family to attend college, receiving a scholarship to attend the University of California Berkeley, where he studied business and eventually earned his MBA. Louis was gifted both intellectually and athletically. He was also on the track team at Berkeley and qualified for the Olympic trials in the 110-meter hurdles.
After graduation, Louis took an internship at Levi’s, where he would spend the entirety of his career. He moved up the corporate ladder, eventually leading their global marketing efforts. Louis was also a family man. He and his wife Ann raised four children together.
David says of his father, “He was the first person in our family to rise from poverty. He was a leader and an inspiration to all of us.”
In June 2017, Louis was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He’s the second generation of the Kirtman family to be affected. His father and mother were also affected.
His son David, who is also a husband and father of two, had been living with his family in Japan and New York for nearly a decade. Within a week of learning about his father’s diagnosis, he was making plans to transfer his job and move his family back to the Seattle area.
“My dad’s diagnosis changed my priorities,” says David. “My siblings live in other states and my mom is dad’s full-time caregiver. I felt like it was important for me to be here with them. I knew there were still good times to be had with my dad and I wanted my kids to know him and spend time with him.”
He adds, “We work so much and so hard that it’s easy to lose sight of what’s important. Being with the people you love and that love you — that’s what life is all about.”
Once he was back in Seattle, David looked for ways to get involved in the fight against Alzheimer’s. He joined the Board of the Alzheimer’s Association Washington State Chapter and began planning a golf tournament for The Longest Day in June.
The message behind The Longest Day resonated deeply with David. He says, “The Longest Day honors people like my mom and dad who face the daily challenges of living with Alzheimer’s. Its symbolism pays tribute to people affected by the disease, the caregivers and family members who live The Longest Day every day.”
When choosing an activity for The Longest Day, David decided to host a golf tournament in Lake Chelan. “My wife, Chanyn, grew up in that area and we spend time there every summer. We love the community there and knew it would be the perfect place to raise funds and awareness for Alzheimer’s disease.”
For David, it’s not just about raising funds though. It’s about raising awareness.
“It’s important to raise awareness about this disease because it’s an epidemic. Millions of people are affected by it; but still, there’s no way to prevent, treat or cure it. We’ve made so much progress with other diseases, but not Alzheimer’s. It baffles me!”
He also wants to make sure people know about the Alzheimer’s Association. “My family is blessed to have a support system in place. Not everyone has that, so I want to raise awareness about the Alzheimer’s Association and the services they offer free of charge to people impacted by this disease.”
Most of all, he wants to honor his father and his family. “My father sacrificed everything to get me to where I am today, and I feel a responsibility to him and to future generations of my family to help fight Alzheimer’s.”