Reason to Hope

Michael Olivari (Gloucester Cty NJ, CoC), Wendy Campbell CEO Alzheimer’s Association of Delaware Valley and former NFL Offensive Tackle, US Congressman and current NFL VP Jon Runyan.

Transcript from Alzheimer’s Association Delaware Valley Chapter Reason to Hope Speech.

Good morning and thank you for allowing me to speak to you today.

Imagine you are 51 years old. You have a healthy, loving marriage, your young adult kids are well. You have a great career with long term goals for a golden retirement.

You believe you are in good health but for the last decade or two there has been an enemy, an unwelcome guest, growing slowly in your brain that turns out to be a terminal illness that will eventually take your life. How do you proceed?

How do you move forward, you have no choice but to move forward, time is NOT on your side and it flies by.

Now I know this is a rhetorical and hypothetical question for you but for me it was my reality in March of 2016 when I was diagnosed with younger onset / early stage Alzheimer’s. How do I proceed?

Normally in life when you’re not faced with a terminal illness and you consider the “what’s next” in your lives you don’t normally operate out of a sense of urgency.

I must tell you we are all here in this room faced with something I have learned requires all of our urgent attention and need.

I understand this because I have Alzheimer’s and I have learned a great deal about the disease and the facts and figures. I can tell you that if you have a brain you must be concerned.

This is why I got involved with the Alzheimer’s Association Delaware Valley and Greater NJ chapters. Why I advocate for awareness, why I’m a member of the Alzheimer’s Association National ESAG and why I Walk to End Alzheimer’s to raise funds for research.

I got involved as soon as I was diagnosed because like many of you I lived with the false narrative that Alzheimer’s disease was exclusive to seniors in assisted living homes. Alzheimer’s is NOT normal aging! Again, the beta amyloid plaque and tangles have been building in my brain for years.

I spent almost a year and a half being mis-diagnosed with a variety of neurological conditions before that one Dr. at Columbia Medical Center of Neurology said it looks like Alzheimer’s. Mind you, none of the other plethora of specialists wanted to go down a diagnosis path of Alzheimer’s because of my age.

I’m no longer working and can no longer drive. But I live a very fruitful life and have found great purpose in serving the community of people living with Alzheimer’s and their families. Working with the Alzheimer’s Association is one of the most rewarding opportunities I have ever had. Like today I speak at many events, I write blog articles, advocate at the state and federal level, participate in print, radio and television interviews and in June I will be starting production on a PBS TV special.

My wife and I personally raised about $10k from a local Friend Raiser event and our Walk to End Alzheimer’s team last year. We give through auto-deposit each month and every purchase I make on Amazon.com a donation goes to the Association through Amazon Smile. Kim and I use Charity Miles when we walk to raise funds as well.

We are doing everything we can because we know the urgency and we know the Alzheimer’s Association is the number one advocate for raising funds for support and research for a cure.

You are here today because, for one reason or another, you have some skin in the game. You got up early on a Wednesday morning to be here before work or before you start your day because you feel it’s important to be here.

You may be a caregiver or may have lost a loved one. I’m very happy you are here. I’m very happy to be here with you and I’m boldly going to tell you why I’m here. I’m here because I have hope. I have hope that through research and clinical trials we’re going to find a cure for Alzheimer’s within the next decade.

But this hope can only be sustained with the financial support of people that are willing to say “it time we have a cure!” I am so committed to a cure that I am in a clinical drug trial myself. My hope is that this drug will be the one that saves my life and much more import the lives of generations to come.

I want to leave you with this this morning. I want to infect you with the same reason I have hope. You have an opportunity here today with your donations and getting involved to directly affect the outcome of the “first survivor of Alzheimer’s.”

Thank you for you time this morning and God bless.

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