The Ride4Alzheimer's tour is underway. Father/daughter pair, Don and Donni Reddington, are riding in a motorcycle + sidecar, while UW MBWC's Marigrace Becker follows in a minivan. We are live blogging the trip from July 4 - July 12th. Follow along as the crew holds rallies in six cities in Washington to raise awareness of Alzheimer's disease and spread positive images of living with dementia far and wide.
July 13 - Celebration Dinner & Reflections on the Ride
After the success of the final rally in Wenatchee, the crew headed back to Twisp for a good night's sleep. The next day, friends and family gathered for a celebration dinner in the Reddington's backyard. While enjoying fried chicken, potato salad and cake, the group heard stories and a banjo version of "I've Been Working on the Railroad," changed to "I've Been Riding in the Sidecar."
Don shared a few highlights from the trip.
Don: "I'll never forget that first time [speaking at the Greenwood Senior Center] - with my Alzheimer's, it's hard to talk like that! I stood up and said, "I have Alzheimer's, and this is my experience."
When asked about his favorite part, Don replied, "The whole thing. Being with you guys and what you did. And I think it's going to become a bigger thing."
With all the people who were impacted by he and Donni's encouraging message along the way, we can only agree!
July 12 - Wenatchee
The Ride4Alzheimer's has reached its destination! Here's an update from Marigrace:
We finished! The journey from Spokane to Wenatchee passed through long stretches of wheat and cornfields. Don was fascinated by this new environment of rolling hills and plains.
Don: "I've never seen so many farms. It's interesting to learn all of this!"
Meanwhile, we had much to anticipate. About 30 minutes outside town we were joined by friends new and old for a final motorcycle entourage to our rally at Wenatchee's Pybus Market: Don, the Vietnam vet who loaned us his BMW motorcycle and sidecar when the original broke down on the first day, several of the motorcycle riders who bonded with Don in Yakima, plus Don's other two daughters.
I had an additional reason to be excited: "TomDog," one of the Yakima riders, offered to give me a ride on his motorcycle! I was eager to trade out the minivan and ride in style for the last few miles of the trip.
So excited for my event coordinator aka "the wizard".......she was able to ditch the support minivan for the last stretch of our @ride4alzheimers rally into Wenatchee!!! Tomtom came all the way from Yakima to escort our lovely support to the end!!! #crush�� #raisingawareness #roadtrippin #ride4alzheimers #motorcycletrip #changinglives
Pulling into the Pybus Market parking lot, a crowd of friends and family from Twisp and Wenatchee came out to greet Don and Donni and snap photos of the adventurers. Attendees included many who have been a big part of Don's story, including a local physician who encouraged him to write the Living with Alzheimer's articles, and the newspaper editor from the Methow Valley News who agreed to published them.
Another man with Alzheimer's, who recently befriended Don, talked about the impact of their friendship: "He always reminds me, 'Life is good.' And if he says that, how can I complain?"
Don pulled me and Donni up on stage at the end: "You two ladies are really doing a great thing - what you've put together, all the responses from people." But while we may have planned the logistics, Don was indeed the true inspiration! His positive, encouraging spirit touched many along the way.
July 11 - Spokane
"It was hard to say goodbye to our motorcycle rider supporters from yesterday, but we journeyed onward through the farmlands, over to our wonderful Spokane hosts at Rockwood South Hill continuing care retirement community," says Marigrace.
Transitional Care Coordinator Amber Rettencourt, who organized the rally, greeted Marigrace, Don, and Donni warmly, and they enjoyed another BBQ in their event center. About fifty folks turned out for another round of rousing speeches.
The Spokane rally featured a welcome by resident John Happy, whose wife lives with dementia. "For the person with dementia," he said, "it's important to keep in touch with them. Even if it's hard to tell how a person is responding, quality time together can be so important." As for the caregiver, John noted, "Take care of yourself." He pointed out that you can't effectively care for another person if you aren't healthy yourself.
Donni and Don took the stage together. Don reinforced John's message about staying connected to those you know who have dementia. "You can feel like you're left behind," said Don. "People might come over and say, 'Hey Don, how are you doing,' but then they keep on walking." Modeling what it looks like to be a companion to someone with Alzheimer's, Don again shared his touching story about the care and support he provided his friend Jerry Bristol, who passed away a few years ago. He has published this story in Living with Alzheimer's: The Reddington Project, a series of articles in the Methow Valley News.
"Another highlight was being joined by our friends who work out of the Spokane office of the Alzheimer's Association Washington State Chapter - Joel Loiacono and Leslie Woodfill," reports Marigrace. "Joel and Leslie distributed helpful resources for the local community, and Joel spoke passionately about the role of advocacy in helping legislators understand more about dementia care, support and research. Thanks, Joel!"
"Rockhill South Hill kindly offered us guest rooms here on their campus. We'll wake early tomorrow to head off to Wenatchee, for our final rally! There should be a great turnout of local supporters and more motorcycle riders — including a few of our new friends from the Yakima entourage.
Also, we can't help but notice the the news media coverage we're receiving along the way, from KOMO News in Seattle and KIMAtv in Yakima:
July 10 - Yakima
Marigrace, Don, Donni and her fiancé Corbin arrived at the Walkabout Creek Tavern in Nachez, about 30 miles outside Yakima, late this morning. They were expecting about 7 bikers to show up as an escort, but over 15 of them came out for the ride! A number of them were older veterans like Don, and they showed such an outpouring of compassion and support for him. One of them gifted him with a biker t-shirt from their group.
Don: That man — he told me up until then his day had just been terrible. But meeting me really helped.
Marigrace sums it up: "In their black leather, skulls and crossbones, and tattoos, they had some of the softest hearts we've encountered so far on the trip. They really embraced him as 'brother,' stopped traffic, and pulled out in their long line on the road to Yakima."
Don: I really got a kick out of all those guys - they were really happy to help!
In Yakima, the crew was welcomed by Doug Ellison of Fieldstone Communities and board member of the Alzheimer's Association, and Doug Scott, event co-organizer and Alzheimer's advocate. The event took place outside Fieldstone in the Yakima heat, with tables/tents, BBQ, beer/wine, oldies on the radio, a silent auction raising money for the Alzheimer's Association, and a few fundraisers for the ride as well. A mixture of senior living residents, the motorcycle groups, and other supporters, over 50 in all. Donni and Marigrace were interviewed for the local news.
Don: All those people are so thankful, every time we go.
Spokane here they come!
This badass biker & retired Vietnam vet was very touched by my dad. He said up until meeting him today, he wasn't doing very well.....but hearing dad's story gave him a new perspective. He said my dad made him happy! #newfiends #makingadifference #raisingawareness #ride4alzheimers #roadtrippin #vietnamvets
July 9 - Mt. Rainier
Finally, some R&R over the weekend in a little A-frame cabin outside Mt. Rainier National Park. Mt. Rainier is a special place to the Reddingtons, as they often recreated there when Donni and her sisters were growing up. Don was stunned to see its beauty and was flooded with old memories.
Don & Donni had some family time while Marigrace did some hiking with a friend. She reports: "I was talking about our trip and a woman passing us said, 'Did you say dementia? My uncle has dementia - it's a big topic of conversation in our family right now.' I told her about the Ride4Alzheimer's, and she continued, 'It's really great just to hear someone saying that word. Helps you feel you're not alone.' These are the kind of ad-hoc awareness/support moments we're privileged to have while on this ride."
Don was in heaven while at Rainier, and when I met up with them again on Sunday afternoon he had gotten a souvenir walking stick at the gift shop, as well as a lovely photo magazine about Rainier that he's been poring over ever since.
Don: This place is breaking my heart...no, not breaking it...it's making it!
On to Yakima!
Mt Rainier has a special place in my families history book. It was important for me to take my dad here for what may be his last visit. During our trip, as we cross paths on our motorcycle sidecar of places he has been before, it is so rewarding & emotional when he recognizes certain places & recalls memories from times he had spent there. I was able to capture one of these moments at Mt. Rainier. #ride4alzheimers #ridingforacause #mtrainier #roadtrippin #motorcyclesidecar #motorcyclejourney #mountrainier @giantloopmoto @butlermaps @iconraiden @bluestarcoffee
July 7 - Olympia
Made it to Olympia! One of the Reddington's goals was to bring the Ride4Alzheimer's to the steps of the WA State Capitol Building.
At one point, Don went inside the Capitol Building to use the restroom. Donni accidentally directed him toward the women's restroom, at which point a state official - who we are 99.9% sure was Governor Inslee - pointed him to the correct one. Not sure if that counts as advocacy? But, Don had really wanted to meet the governor and was pretty sure he did!
Rally at the Lacey Senior Center! Outside at the lake's edge, attendees enjoyed live music and a Zumba dance warm-up. "For me, a highlight was hearing the senior center director and staff talk about their commitment to growing the Momentia movement in their area," says Marigrace. "They had sign-up sheets out for their memory loss walking group and Memory Cafe, plus a focus group for people with memory loss to share what kinds of community activities they would like to be involved in. It was also nice to see Bob Leroy, Executive Director, Alzheimer's Association - WA Chapter, and folks from the WA State Aging & Longterm Support Administration, such as Lynne Korte from the Dementia Action Collaborative."
July 6 - Seattle
Bright and early, the crew started driving south along Chuckanut Drive and headed down over Deception pass. Motorcyclist Kavan Peterson, editor at changingaging.org, joined them for the next stretch. They are going to Seattle!
At 4 pm on the dot, the troop pulled up to the Greenwood Senior Center, where a small crowd cheered and welcomed them inside for refreshments and welcoming words from Cecily Kaplan, Senior Programs Director of the Phinney Neighborhood Association and Carin Mack, social worker at the Greenwood Senior Center, who runs support groups and other programs for people living with memory loss and their care partners. Then came the featured talks by the Ride4Alzheimer's crew.
Donni introduced the motivation to bring to fruition her father's quest to help others with Alzheimer's disease to stay engaged in life. In 2015, Don collaborated with the Methow Valley News to create a series of eight articles: Living with Alzheimer's: The Reddington Project, in which he shared about how Alzheimer's disease has affected his life and how one can live a good life despite challenges. Donni emphasized the importance of responding with patience and humor to a person with dementia, instead of fear.
Marigrace Becker spoke about how Don's effort to create positive images of living with dementia fits into the larger context of building dementia-friendly communities. These are places where people with dementia have a voice, opportunities, and the respect of the general public. She highlighted examples, such as the Momentia grassroots movement, the WA Alzheimer's State Plan's focus on promoting dementia-friendly community development, and this Ride4Alzheimer's tour.
"I want to encourage all of us, especially all of the people with memory loss in our community who have raised their voices to say 'I'm still here' - those who have come out with dementia to say, 'Yes, I have it and I have a right to be respected.' That's paving the way for other people around our state," said Marigrace.
Unexpectedly, Don decided to speak at the microphone. (The audience assumed that had always been the plan.) He reflected on a pivotal moment in his life when he met and befriended Jerry Bristol, a man who lived with Alzheimer's disease. Don helped Jerry to read and stay active, and also learned about living well with dementia at the same time. He shared a range of lessons he's learned, including the importance of finding a doctor with knowledge and compassion about memory loss and dementia. Don also touched on ways to interact with people living with dementia. Importantly, he advocated for care partners to allow their spouse or parent to engage in activities that he actually enjoys, not ones that others think he should enjoy. Don said he's on this tour because he wants the 5 million Americans with Alzheimer's disease to know that they are not alone and still have a life to live, things to do, and people to meet. The audience came away impressed with Don's ability to turn words into action.
Later, Marigrace reflected on Don's decision to speak: "A major highlight for me has been to see the way Don looks back fondly on that moment of speaking at the Greenwood Senior Center. It left a deep impression on him, and has come up multiple times each day since. He is incredulous that he was able to talk in that way, that the words and ideas just flowed."
Don: I wasn't planning on speaking. I can't believe how well it went, because I didn't have anything planned for it! I was so amazed. I think God helped me. Afterward, people were coming up, giving positive comments, everyone, the men and women, even the young people, saying it really helped. I didn't know how it was going to go, but I just kept going. And I'm so glad.
Marigrace is looking forward to tomorrow in Olympia at the Lacey Senior Center. While planning the Olympia rally, she learned that the folks at the Lacey Senior Center admire Seattle's Greenwood Senior Center and all the resources and programming they provide for people and families dealing with dementia, through all stages. They have been building their own focus on memory loss and will use the rally as a catalyst for more programs for people with dementia in that area of Washington!
At Seattle's Space Needle, the Reddingtons held an impromptu rally and spoke to passersby about the Ride4Alzheimer's. Marigrace shares an exchange between Donni and a man who stopped to chat:
Donni: My dad has Alzheimer's, and we're touring around the state on motorcycle!
Man: Well, what a way to go! [pause]. Or, what a way to live in the moment!
"That slight shift symbolizes the kind of perspective change we're hoping to accomplish— from dying to living with Alzheimer's," says Marigrace.
July 5 - Bellingham
As fate would have it, the motorcycle stalled out near Ross Lake and wouldn't start again. But, they're ready for anything. The Reddington's have a friend outside Wenatchee who offered to loan them another motorcycle and sidecar. This morning, they picked-up the new-and-improved yellow BMW motorcycle, from their friend (another Don) who joined in a camo green motorcycle sidecar up to Steven's Pass summit. They made it to the Bellingham rally at Boundary Bay Brewery & Bistro and met their hosts from the Alzheimer Society of Washington. Among its other support and education programs, ASW plans to work with other organizations this Fall to train businesses, banks, libraries, and community centers in dementia friendly practices. The goal is for local businesses to be supportive and provide good customer service so that people with dementia can continue to go out without worrying about how people will respond.
Donni - I promise, Dad, tomorrow won't be as stressful.
Don - Stressful? Today was stressful?
Kick-off at 4th of July parade in Twisp, WA, the Reddington's hometown! Residents cheered on Don, Donni, and Marigrace as they ride off through the North Cascade Mountains on Highway 20.
"Together, riding side by side around the state, Don and Donni, will make a powerful statement about pursuing life with Alzheimer's, the opportunities open to everyone affected by the disease and the importance of living an enjoyable and respected life." -Ride4Alzheimer's team
"I want to help a lot of people" - Don