Members of the Alzheimer's Association and sponsor representatives joined together for lunch during The Longest Day fundraiser at BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse in Valencia on June 21, 2019. Ryan Mancini/The Signal

Alzheimer’s Association, BJ’s raise money on ‘Longest Day’

Through a nationwide partnership with BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse, the Alzheimer’s Association continued its fight against the disease with its fundraiser, The Longest Day, on Friday.

Restaurant guests who donate $1 to the association get a free pizookie on their visit, and the free pizookie offer will be valid for dine-in and takeout until July 31.

“The BJ’s partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association is now in its second year,” said Jovan Bowles, vice president of development of the Alzheimer’s Association California Southland Chapter. “They are considered the proud supporter of The Longest Day, which is an annual fundraiser that the Alzheimer’s Association does on June 21 every year – the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. The idea is that anybody, anywhere can get involved with The Longest Day and support their Alzheimer’s Association by hosting their own fundraiser.”

Walk to End Alzheimer’s chair James Schramm said all 204 BJ’s restaurants, including the Valencia location, participated in The Longest Day. Last year, the association raised $220,000, Bowles said. As of Friday, they were 5% ahead of where they were one year ago, he added, with the goal to raise $250,000 this year.

“This is a disease that there is no cure right now,” Schramm said. “We’re waiting for the first survivor of Alzheimer’s and we’re excited for that.”

Along with BJ’s, the Alzheimer’s Association has received support and sponsorship from other local business and senior facilities, including Pacifica Senior Living, Oakmont of Santa Clarita and Oakmont of Valencia. Representatives from Edward Jones Investments, another sponsor, also arrived to BJ’s to provide support on The Longest Day.

“We have, personally, clients that are with us well over 20 years, so we’ve watched them go through these experiences with the illness and it’s really close to our heart,” said Martina Vega, financial advisor with Edward Jones.

Another participant in The Longest Day was Valencia resident Willa Robinson. She’s also a member of the Walk to End Alzheimer’s committee and chair of Alzheimer’s Impact Movement, an advocacy arm of the association that supports “policies to overcome Alzheimer’s disease through increased investment in research, enhanced care and improved support,” according to their website.

“After being married for 52 years, my husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and I was devastated,” she said. “I didn’t know what to do. But I just figured that was going to be a caregiver for the rest of my life because being married that long, I just felt that this what I was supposed to do.”

Robinson wrote and published a book called “52 Ways to Love My Man” about her experiences with her husband Vernon and his diagnosis. Two months ago, one of Robinson’s oldest and closest friends was diagnosed with the disease.

“You always see the signs before,” she said. “It was validated that she has it. We’ve been friends for 50 years. It’s the roughest, toughest disease I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s devastating, it’s like a thief that just steals all of the brain cells until it’s just a shell and there’s nothing there.”

In reaching out to families for their support, the Alzheimer’s Association is reminding restaurant guests about the upcoming Walk to End Alzheimer’s in October.

“This city has really done a great job of being behind this walk,” Schramm said. “Last year, we had over 850 walkers, we raised over $125,000 last year just in Santa Clarita alone. Our goal this year is to raise $150,000 total.”

To learn more about The Longest Day and the 2019 Walk to End Alzheimer’s, visit alz.org.

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