By Jenni Regimbal
My name is Jenni Regimbal and I live in Kennewick, WA with my husband Austin and three-year-old daughter, Ellie. My husband and I are from the Tri-Cities and have lived here most of our lives, aside from a number of years spent in Spokane after college (we both graduated from Richland High School and Eastern Washington University). We moved back to the Tri-Cities about six months before our daughter was born. I am a CPA and tax director. We are lucky in that both of our families are mostly in the Tri-Cities area. I participate in the Tri-Cities Walk to End Alzheimer’s with Team Knight in honor of my granddaddy, James Roger Knight.
My grandaddy, James Roger Knight, along with my Granny, were incredibly involved in my life from a very young age. We always lived very close to them and they helped take care of my brother and me. Both he and my Granny are two of my favorite people.
One of my favorite memories with him was when we were on a family trip in Canada and he bought me my first alcoholic beverage because the drinking age was lower than in the U.S. He was equally proud and thought it was hilarious as I had to have two forms of ID checked. His constant support and always being so proud of me is something I truly miss.
To be honest, I didn’t know a ton (or was in denial about) his Alzheimer’s journey. It wasn’t talked about much in my family. I know it was difficult. I still have voice messages that I saved from him back in 2015, and listening back now, I can hear the definite signs. For a while, Granny had professional help come to their house to assist in caregiving, but eventually he moved to a memory care community in Richland.
I was a little removed from it all as I was in Spokane when it happened, and I also think my family was trying to protect me in a sense because they knew it would be hard on me. When we moved back to the Tri-Cities early in 2017, Granddaddy was living in the memory care community. I remember visiting him and how my heart broke for him, myself and my family. I remember the first time I realized that he didn’t remember who I was. I also remember the last time I saw him in April of 2017, when I was four months pregnant with my daughter. I wanted so badly to tell him all about it, but at that point, he was toward the end of his Alzheimer’s journey and wasn’t very responsive. He passed away later that month.
I wish I had known about the resources available through the Alzheimer’s Association when my Grandaddy was going through it. I wish I had talked to people who had gone through it themselves. I felt so unsure of what to do when visiting him and didn’t understand what he was going through.
I first got involved in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s after my Granddaddy passed away and my daughter was born. My daughter’s middle name is for my Grandaddy — her name is Ellie James. My first actual Walk was last year in 2019. I got involved on the Walk Planning Committee once my daughter was no longer an infant and I could dedicate time to an organization that I felt passionate about. Our team, Team Knight, consists mainly of my and my husband’s family.
This year, Ellie and I made painted handprint Promise Garden flowers as our fundraiser. We sent these flowers to all of our family and friends that donated to Team Knight. The flowers were delivered all over the US to Washington, Texas, Tennessee and more. We’ve raised almost $3,000. My Granny even matched donations up to $1,250!
The most important thing to me about Walk is being involved with an organization that is working to provide support and find a cure for dementia. I think Walk is a great way to get involved and bring more attention to this often heartbreaking disease. I think Walk is important to people because dementia touches so many in the community.
I feel that oftentimes people don’t want to talk about dementia, which I completely understand because I was there too. I think we have to talk about it more. We have to make the conversation more present in our community so that we bring awareness to Alzheimer’s and all other dementia, and can help support those in our community affected by it.
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