For Leigh Ann Dunleavy, organizing a fundraiser for the Alzheimer’s Association has been a personal mission of hers since she lost her mother to the disease three months ago.
Dunleavy had been planning this event for over six months, saying that since one of her kids played hockey, she thought it would be a great addition to the association’s “Longest Day” fundraising events. But once her mother’s Alzheimer’s began to develop, it created a spark to make the event happen.
“While I was sitting there in hospice, it kind of lit a fire in terms of getting this event to happen this year,” said Dunleavy. “And so that’s what happened.”
Six weeks after the day Dunleavy was sitting in hospice, The Longest Hockey Game was held at The Cube Ice and Entertainment Center in Valencia on Saturday.
The event was done in coordination with the Alzheimer’s Association and featured six hockey games along with other fundraising games such as “shoot the puck” and “guess the winner.” Participants were organized by age ranging from 8U to adult league. Players came from all over Southern California to participate.
Dunleavy said she was very moved to see so many people come to support the event.
“I’m on the verge of tears today. I mean, it’s amazing,” said Dunleavy. “The community has really rallied behind it and what’s been really amazing to me is how many people have been touched by Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.”
One of these people is Larry Bruyere, general manager of the Cube. Bruyere lost his mother to Alzheimer’s and has a sister who’s suffering from the disease as well. Bruyere said that while it’s not great to be involved with a disease that is so debilitating, it is great to be part of raising funds for that cause.
“Leigh Ann and I have been talking quite a bit about it because she recently lost her mom, you know, so it gets people talking about the disease and how it’s impacted them,” said Bruyere. “It just makes more people aware of how prevalent it is… so whatever we can do to raise money, so that research can be ramped up, doing our little part is important.”
Bruyere also echoed the same point Dunleavy was making, that not only is this a great opportunity to raise funds to combat Alzheimer’s, but it’s also a way for those afflicted by the disease to come together and share their stories with each other.
“It’s kind of hard to talk about it, especially, you know, with your parents, but the more I’ve opened up and started talking about it around the rink with various people, I found out how many people Alzheimer’s has touched, including the person who runs the rink here,” said Dunleavy. “The more that people knew that I had gone through it… I’ve been able to talk to them and kind of share what I’ve learned and they’ve been able to share [their experiences] to me.”
Rachel Schall, events manager for the Alzheimer’s Association, is also someone who has been affected by Alzheimer’s, having lost her grandmother to the disease in 2016. Shall said having their “Longest Day” events alludes to the summer solstice – the longest day of the year – to fight the darkness surrounding Alzheimer’s but also as a reminder of how family members of loved ones with the disease feel as they suffer with them.
“The Alzheimer’s Association is here for anyone going through this disease,” said Shall. “Whether they’ve already been through it with a family member, or they’re just starting that journey, or know someone who’s going through it, we’re here.”
Before stepping away from her interview, Dunleavy said there was something she really wanted our readers to know.
“I found a need to be able to funnel my energies and funnel my grief into something productive and something that could help,” said Dunleavy. “I would just like people to know that as they’re going through this grief, is to find those opportunities to be able to give back. Because it’s kind of renewing me from this loss, and from this grief, to be able to do this. To be able to help others, and to be able to put money towards research that’s hopefully going to end this horrible disease.”