When Janelle Simpliciano was a Sigma Kappa sorority member at UC Berkeley in the early 1990’s, she learned about dementia and joined thousands of Sigma Kappas nationwide in fundraising for the Alzheimer’s Association. A few years after college, Janelle and her husband, Stan, moved their young family to Seattle and have been here since. “After college, dementia and Alzheimer’s were not a part of my life, except for the infrequent donations I would make as an Alum,” Janelle said.
That all changed five years ago when Janelle’s father began experiencing cognitive decline and passed away from Alzheimer’s two years after his initial diagnosis. “That’s all it took for me to get involved again,” said Janelle. That year, she walked in her first Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Seattle.
Janelle is now the volunteer Co-chair for the Pacific Northwest Walk to End Alzheimer’s. She supports the other Walk planning committee members with their prospective ideas and outreach. She became a volunteer because “of what I’d experienced, what I had witnessed my mom endure,” she said. “I felt I had to do something!” She volunteers for her family, because she does not want her children to have to say goodbye to her and her husband in the way that she had to with her father.
According to Janelle, her father, Art, was “the light of every community in which he lived and a leader in business. He lived a full, vivacious life and enjoyed the friendship and deep admiration of scores of people. But Alzheimer’s changed all that.” Janelle’s family struggled with finding care for their father during his rapid decline, as well as a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s that came too late. “I’ve never really gotten over what life may have looked like for both my parents had the diagnosis appropriately come long before,” she said.
Janelle suggests that people who have been impacted by Alzheimer’s and dementia volunteer with the Alzheimer’s Association if they can. “Volunteering beside people who literally share my story —who intimately know what my family and I have experienced — has been one of the most meaningful ways I’ve come to feel connected in this community and in my life as a whole. It’s an incredible honor to be around people with whom I share this bond of mutual experience. If someone has felt alone in their suffering, volunteering is an amazing way to not ever be alone again,” said Janelle.
She added, “If anyone has the passion and drive to personally lend their time, talent and commitment to ending this horrid disease, all hands, hearts and motivations are needed! Each volunteer I’ve met has their own unique reason for wanting to end Alzheimer’s, and while we aren’t all the same, collectively, our goal is, and this is why we’ll win.”
The Alzheimer’s Association is always looking for new volunteers to help out with community awareness, fundraising, programs and services, advocacy, communications, administrative support, community outreach and projects and events. If you are interested in volunteering with us, please visit alzwa.org/volunteer or contact Katya Strohl at 206.529.3882 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to learn more on becoming a Walk to End Alzheimer’s Volunteer, learn more here.