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13 year old Walk team captain and volunteer raised $50,000 to help end Alzheimer’s

How I’ve volunteered:

My name is Emma Sametz and I’m an undergraduate student at UW-Madison, hoping to become a Physician Assistant. My mom is a Gerontologist that specializes in Alzheimer’s disease, so ever since I was a little girl I grew up going with her to the memory care facilities as well as annually attending the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. My great grandmother Fay also had Alzheimer’s disease, so I witnessed very early on the effects of the disease and how hard it was for my mom to see her grandmother slipping away. Once I turned 13 years old, I knew I wanted to start getting involved myself and helping out in whatever way that I could. I started volunteering at memory care facilities; I played piano weekly for the residents and saw how much it brightened their day, which was such an amazing experience. I also started my first very own team for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. At just thirteen, I managed to raise nearly $50,000 that year in hopes of finding a cure and was one of the Top 5 fundraising teams in Illinois. Every year since I’ve been 13 years old (I’m now 20), I’ve had my own team for the Walk.

Now that I’m in college and pursuing a career in medicine I got certified as a Nursing Assistant and Patient Care Technician. With those certifications, I got a caregiving job where I take care of a client with advanced Alzheimer’s disease who is now non-verbal. I am so proud to have been able to work with and advocate on her behalf over these past two years; it’s really been such a wonderful experience.

In addition to working directly with Alzheimer’s patients, I wanted to continue working with the Alzheimer’s Association and helping out wherever I could. I became part of the Alzheimer’s Congressional Team in Madison where I partake in advocacy to raise the awareness of and support for the Alzheimer’s Association’s public policy goals. I also reached out to Jennifer Keeney in the hopes of helping out with the Walk to End Alzheimer’s wherever help is needed. She’s helped me get involved with community outreach in terms of reaching out to Champions to congratulate them as well as getting local schools and companies involved in volunteering with the Walk!

Why should others raise funds and awareness about Alzheimer’s?

I really believe that raising awareness is just as important as raising funds because it fosters an understanding, empathy, and a sense of community among those affected by the disease, their families, and the broader society. It most importantly encourages open conversations, which will work to create a supportive environment where individuals feel more comfortable seeking information. I also think that by discussing Alzheimer’s disease more openly, we can educate others, promote more empathy, and even begin to encourage more proactive measures such as early detection, which is so important.

I also want people to recognize the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and the fact that 6.9 million Americans (65+) are living with it in 2024. I think once people recognize the true magnitude of this statistic, they, too, will be compelled to join the fight to find a cure.

What do you want others to understand about Alzheimer’s disease / dementia who may not have experienced it first-hand?

I want others to understand that behind each person with Alzheimer’s disease lies a lifetime of memories, experiences, and emotions that deserve to be honored and respected. From caregiving, I learned that it’s about meeting them where they are, embracing them with compassion, and cherishing the moments of joy and connection, regardless of how fleeting they may be.

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