Alzheimer’s Association fundraiser raises shy of $8K

Staff photo by Hannah LaClaire Lynn Wahle, left, and Judy Loubier set up their boat during the Longest Day fundraiser this week.

NASHUA – By the second half of Thursday, the first day of summer and longest day of the year, Judy Loubier was sore.

That morning, she and her friends, Dan St. James and Lynn Wahle, had rowed 15,000 meters on the Merrimack River, more than they had ever rowed at once. At 4 p.m. that same day, they were getting ready to do another 10,000 and despite the hot sun and their already tight muscles, they were happy and excited to get started.

“I love that we’re back here,” Wahle said as she sat on the floor of the boathouse, stretching.

“We’re starting and ending our day doing something we love,” Loubier added.

That is the point of “The Longest Day,” a fundraiser by the Alzheimer’s Association is an event that takes place on the longest day of the year and is geared toward loving what you do and love for all those affected by Alzheimer’s disease.

Staff photo by Hannah LaClaire Judy Loubier and Lynn Wahle set off on their 10,000 meter row during the Longest Day fundraiser this week.

All over the country, teams signed up to do what they love: one team had satellite players all over the country playing bridge. Another man in Merrimack raised money by cooking hot dogs all day.

For Loubier, Wahle and St. James, that activity is rowing. By Thursday evening, they had surpassed their $5,000 goal and were just a few dollars shy of $8,000.

Rowing seemed like the perfect response to an Alzheimer’s awareness campaign, Loubier said, because while there is no cure for the disease, staying active, staying social and learning new skills or languages can help reduce risk. Rowing, she said, has all of these components.

The combined 25,000 meters were selected because “it needed to be hard enough,” she said. The three of them are members of the Independence Rowing Club in Nashua and have rowed 12,000 meters in a race, but never more – until Thursday.

The first half of the day, they rowed singles, the second half in doubles, with rower Heather Tallman-Ruhm joining to round out the team.

“It needed to be hard enough because Alzheimer’s is hard” on the patient, the caregivers, the loved ones and everyone involved, Loubier said. “It had to have meaning.”

For Loubier and her teammates, it has all the meaning in the world.

Loubier’s mother was diagnosed with vascular dementia after a stroke in 2012, and once her father could no longer manage on his own, she became her mother’s primary caregiver. Her aunt also has Alzheimer’s.

That same year, Loubier and her husband Randy opened a Seniors Helping Seniors center. They have had hundreds of clients over the years, with roughly 90 right now, and according to Loubier, at any given time as many as 60 to 70 percent of them have some form of dementia. For her, Alzheimer’s is intertwined in her personal and professional story.

Wahle’s life is also affected by the disease – her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2014 and her father also has vascular dementia.

“My mom still recognizes us,” she said, “but if you talk about other people who aren’t in the room, she won’t know who they are.”

She still talks to her mom on the phone, but four years into a disease that on average takes 10 years, she knows there’s a long road ahead of her.

St. James said his father was diagnosed in 1997 and passed away in 2003. One of 10 siblings, St. James said his father didn’t recognize any of them once his disease progressed.

Therefore, when Loubier texted him about The Longest Day and her idea to host a row-a-thon, his response was immediate.

“I’m in.”

They named their team, “Clarity Crew: Rowing to Remember.” All three agreed they would like to gain momentum and hopefully grow the fundraiser in future years.

In the meantime, Loubier, Wahle, St. James and Tallman-Ruhm set out on the river to spend a few more hours getting the most out of the longest day of the year.

The 24/7 Alzheimer’s helpline is available to patients and caregivers. The number is 1-800-272-3900.

For more information about Alzheimer’s or The Longest Day, visit www.alz.org.

Hannah LaClaire can be reached at 594-1243 or hlaclaire@nashuatelegraph.com.