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Family rallies for Alzheimer’s walk after loss

August 21, 2018

When Amy Van Tassel lost a family member to Alzheimer’s, her family’s Alzheimer’s walk turned into a memorial.

Van Tassel’s mother, Annette Sackett, died from the disease on May 29.

Sackett, a Stewartville resident, was a volunteer, quilter, avid antiquer, and loving mother and grandmother.

Alzheimer’s took those things away one by one, Van Tassel said.

“My mom was very fortunate to have had a pretty peaceful Alzheimer’s experience for seven, eight years,” Van Tassel said. “But the last year, we really saw all of the changes and all of the horrible things you hear about … when you feel like you lose her twice. You’re caring for someone who looks like your mom, but isn’t your mom.”

The changes and tantrums made Van Tassel realize how “naive” her family had been about the reality of Alzheimer’s.

“It was hell. And it’s still very fresh and raw,” she said. “Just to think about what she went through, it was a horrible way to go.”

Days later, the Alzheimer’s Association reached out to the family and, having seen Annette’s story, asked them to be the honorary family for the 2018 Rochester Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

That request turned the tide of grief into a force for good.

“It was very important to us, seeing how this disease had torn her down,” Van Tassel said. “You want to get together with anybody and everybody to fight this. If something positive comes out of this, my family wants to be part of it.”

Now Annette’s team has 60 family members, friends, and coworkers (some all the way from Maine), and has raised nearly $8,500 of the $10,000 goal. Van Tassel likes to think her mother would be proud of all of them.

There are people on the team she doesn’t know — but they knew her mother, and that’s what’s important.

And the donations have rolled in, she said. Many have been very generous, but the smaller contributions had an effect as well. A child of one of her mother’s friends dropped off two dollars in change from her piggy bank shortly after they began raising money for the walk.

“It makes you smile,” Van Tassel said. “I wonder if we would have been as okay as we are if we didn’t have this walk. … I think it’s helped us move past it a little easier, just having such a good thing to work on.”

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