By Mary Harder Frederick
My name is Mary Harder Frederick, and I live in Moses Lake, WA. I grew up in Eastern Washington, graduating from University High School in the Spokane Valley and WSU. I have been married to my husband, Brooke for 35 years. We have two grown sons and a spoiled rescue furbaby named Sasha. (She has joined us on the walk the past two years.) I am a former high school teacher and active in our community through Kiwanis. I also serve on the board of the Columbia Basin Foundation.
My father had Alzheimer’s disease, as did his mother (my paternal grandmother). My dad, Hans Harder, was the first man I ever loved. He was an athlete, WSU Alumni and a farmer who loved sports and raising cattle. He was the most generous person I knew. As a child, I remember him giving money to strangers on the street when we went to town. He would do anything for his family, loved cooking us steaks and breakfasts, and he always made sure I had a safe car to drive. He loved his grandsons from the day they were born. He was the “fun grandpa” who played catch and let the boys jump on the furniture.
Dad was diagnosed in his mid 70s, in the 1990s. He went from being my big, strong, jolly father to a weak, confused and sad man; dependent on others to care for him. I became his part-time caregiver on the weekends to give my mom a break. He was no longer able to visit us or watch his grandsons play sports. In fact, my sons were so young that they don’t remember their grandpa being strong and healthy or him playing catch with them in the backyard — they do remember him letting them jump on the furniture! Alzheimer’s took my dad’s independence, sense of humor, strength and dignity. It took my father away from me years before his last breath.
My dad died the morning of the summer solstice, June 21, 2002, at the age of 80. It was just after my parents’ 60th wedding anniversary.
I made a list of reasons why I participate in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s when I was fundraising last year. The main reasons are that I never want to forget those I love, and I never want to be a burden to them. With my family history, I am afraid I have a genetic pathway to the disease. That thought terrifies me.
Here are some other reasons I listed on my fundraising page:
- Support: I know someone who needed and used the 24/7 Helpline when she was in a dangerous situation because of Alzheimer’s. I’m so glad it was available for her.
- A cure will save tax dollars: The estimated Alzheimer’s care costs to Medicare and Medicaid was $186 billion in 2018 and rising.
- Survivor: I want to help in finding the first survivor of Alzheimer’s disease — maybe it will be you!
- Investment: I have confidence this organization is a good steward of my money. It has a higher ranking with Charity Navigator than other voluntary health organizations, and working on our local committee reinforces my confidence in the organization.
I started the Frederick Forget-Me-Nots the first year the Walk began in Moses Lake in 2014. My good friend, Lynn, lost her mother to early-onset Alzheimer’s and she has been my “co-captain” every year since. The Walk is an important and emotional event for both of us. My husband has been right along with me every year, as well as several other friends who have had family members with Alzheimer’s.
Some years our numbers are small as a team, but we usually rank among the top for fundraising. I have also gotten the MLHS Key Club involved and they are a great help to the committee on Walk day; helping set up, registering walkers, directing traffic, and of course cleaning up. I am proud of these young people and their willingness to help as volunteers for the event. My hope is that it is their generation that will be putting the disease in history books, where it belongs.
As a member of the Walk planning committee, I have helped with the pre-Walk planning and events, as well as promoting and encouraging sponsorships. I basically do whatever the Walk manager needs me to do, whether it is getting hot dogs donated, making sure the DJ has a power supply, finding a wheelchair for a walker who needs it or putting up signs along the Walk path!
I have also been an Alzheimer’s advocate in Olympia, talking to my state representatives about the importance of funding for Alzheimer’s services and support.
The world may look a little different right now, but one thing hasn’t changed: our commitment to ending Alzheimer’s. This year, the Walk to End Alzheimer’s is everywhere — on every street, trail and treadmill. We’re moving forward to end Alzheimer’s. Join the fight at alzwa.org/walk