Watching the slow descent of a friend or loved one into the abyss of Alzheimer’s as it slowly steals memories and identities is something more and more people struggle with every day.
Jason Lynch, a 2011 graduate of Stonehill College and former Easton resident, has a great uncle with Alzheimer’s but it was not until Lynch started working as the development director of the Massachusetts/New Hampshire Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association that he found a cause to be passionate about.
“Now that I’ve met so many incredible families, it’s a cause that really means so much to me,” Lynch said.
Lynch will be taking part in the Chapter’s Longest Day fundraising effort where teams will be climbing all 48 of New Hampshire’s 4,000-foot mountains in one weekend in June where 48 teams will be each assigned one peak to climb.
“Alzheimer’s is such a difficult disease and it causes many people to feel hopeless,” Lynch said. “There’s no cure, no way to prevent it, and no way to slow it. People need to feel like they’re fighting back and this allows them to take an active role and do something about this disease. I want the Longest Day and the 48 Peaks Challenge to inspire people and fill them with a genuine sense of hope.”
Longest Day events and the 48 Peak Challenge take place the weekend of June 19-21, the longest days in the calendar this year.
Lynch said approximately 30 teams have registered so far. Some of the more moderate hikes would be roughly eight miles, round trip, with a 2,000-foot elevation gain but Lynch said most of the hikes are manageable for those in relatively good health.
“When we’re standing on top of our mountains and know that (47) other teams just did one of their own, that will be pretty powerful,” Lynch said. “And there are so many great friendships that grow from these events. As one of our board members says, ‘the only good thing about Alzheimer’s is the great people you meet along the way.’”
Lynch participated in the 2013 Longest Day with a triple climb of Mount Washington, hiking more than 26 miles and climbing the Northeast’s highest peak three times in 16 hours.
Because they slept only two hours the night before that day, Lynch said the 3.5-hour car ride back to Boston was brutal.
“When I first heard about the event, I wanted to really challenge myself in honor of all the caregivers I work with,” Lynch said. “They endure such a long journey and they do it (with) so much grace and love. It totally inspired me.”
Lynch was so inspired by the event that, in 2014, he became captain of a team called “That’s Spirit.” He and 19 teammates participated in various activities across Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Costa Rica, including another ascent of Mount Washington.
There were some other teams that did hiking-related events for that Longest Day and Lynch said after brainstorming on how to rally people to get involved, he and the others decided on the 48 Peak Challenge.
“This was one of our favorite ideas as we thought it would be a really powerful display of the strength and resilience in the Alzheimer’s community,” Lynch said. “The cancer community got loud and now we have great treatments for cancer. The HIV community got loud and did the same thing. The Alzheimer’s community hasn’t gotten loud enough yet. But we’re getting there and I want this to be a way to really build that sense of urgency.”
Those interested in finding out more information or forming a team to challenge one of the peaks can visit tinyurl.com/48peaks.
To learn more about the Longest Day or to register to participate in something other than the 48 Peaks Challenge visit alzTLD.org.