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Mathys called to volunteer by life experiences

By Ben Rodgers

SUAMICO – Sue Mathys was impacted by Alzheimer’s disease once before and now with another family member being affected she is ramping up her efforts.

But to be honest, the retired Suamico resident hasn’t truly wavered in her support over the past two decades.

For 27 years Mathys and her family have participated in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

“My youngest daughter is 29 and she was in a stroller when it started out at UWGB, so that’s how I know it’ll be 28 years,” Mathys said.

Every year Edra’s Bunch takes part in the walk, named after Mathys’ mother Edra, who passed away in 2007 after a battle with the disease that lasted more than a decade.

“It’s varied through the years,” she said. “Initially there were six of us that started the walk when it was out at UWGB on their outdoor walking path, and I’ve probably made it all but a couple years here in Green Bay and the years I didn’t make it here I walked in Madison and I walked in Marquette, Michigan.”

Edra lived with Mathys and her family for 1 1/2 years starting in 1996. In 1997 her mother moved into an assisted living facility in Green Bay, before there were any specific units for memory care.

Back then Mathys went to the Greater Wisconsin Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association for support by meeting with other people going through the same challenge.

“It’s a wonderful resource to get you in touch with the critical players that might be important to you to use throughout your caregiving experience with your loved one, or supporting their needs as they progress through the disease,” she said.

Edra passed away in 2007, but the family still walked as it gave them a chance to come together.

“My mom was in this facility for 10 years in Green Bay,” Mathys said. “It literally brought my family together for once a year… It brought us to a different level of family commitment I believe.”

Now her oldest brother Jack, 73, who lives outside of Detroit, has the disease. Which means the upcoming walk will be even more important for her family.

“It’s just a reflection of how we impacted each other,” Mathys said. “We may not necessarily talk to each other everyday, but we know what’s going on in each others lives and we truly care about each other.”

With another family member facing Alzheimer’s and more time on her hands with retirement, Mathys plans to help out the association by volunteering her free time.

“Now I just have more free time and more passion to put into it,” Mathys said. “As you retire you try to figure out what your passion is.”

With National Healthcare Volunteer Week from April 15-21, the Greater Wisconsin Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association is looking for dependable help like Mathys.

“As the world’s largest voluntary health organization devoted to Alzheimer’s care, research and advocacy, volunteers are the heart of the Alzheimer’s Association,” said Laurie Schill, Greater Wisconsin Chapter executive director. “We have committee members help us plan and fundraise for events, support group facilitators, community educators who lead our family education programs and office volunteers who help us with important data entry. We cannot thank them enough for what they do to drive our mission forward.”

People can register to volunteer by visiting alz.org/gwwi and filling out the volunteer application, or by calling 1-800-272-3900.

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