By Jamie Saunders
Jordan MacNeil was raised with a love of the outdoors, mostly instilled in her by her grandmother, Mary Louise “Mimi” MacNeil. “Mimi is an amazing grandmother, and she used to take me on all sorts of adventures. We would go hiking and to museums, rollerblading, kayaking, and swimming. Every year she would take me hiking on the Appalachian trail, and those are some of my favorite memories.”
Mimi has lived an incredible and adventurous life. “Mimi is so brilliant. She was a chemist for the CDC, and when she retired, she became a docent at the High Museum of Art.” Jordan and her family noticed Mimi battling with memory issues nearly 12 years ago. “It was hard for her, and for us, as she started to lose her independence. She has had to be in a memory care unit for the past couple of years.”
To honor Mimi, and other family members afflicted by Alzheimer’s, Jordan and her fiancé Justin Parker began hiking and fundraising for “The Longest Day.” The Longest Day is the Alzheimer’s Association’s second-largest fundraising campaign meant to capitalize on the longest day of the year and the day with the most light. Thousands of participants come together to fight the darkness of Alzheimer’s through an activity of their choice. Together, they use their creativity and passion to raise funds and awareness for the care, support, and research efforts of the Alzheimer’s Association.
They are team, “Miles for Mimi,” and together they are hiking the Appalachian Trail (2,192 miles) from Maine to Georgia. They started hiking June 16, 2019, in Maine and have hiked through eleven states: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia. They are currently in Tennessee with hopes of finishing in December of 2019.
Today, Jordan and Justin are living on the Appalachian Trail, but look forward to marrying and settling down in Justin’s hometown of Tucson, Arizona, when their hiking adventure is complete. Being on the trail allows for reflection, acting as a way to relive precious memories with Mimi, memories that Mimi no longer has. “I hope that grandparents everywhere will be able to hold on to memories of taking their grandchildren on adventures.”
“I don’t think many people have the opportunity to learn about Alzheimer’s, so I really hope to raise awareness for people to understand what a horrible disease this is. Justin’s great-grandmother had Alzheimer’s, but he was not too familiar with the disease until he met my grandmother, Mimi. My Aunt, Andrea MacNeil, recently passed away on July 22, 2019, after a long battle with early-onset Alzheimer’s. I hope we can raise money for research to find a cure to help families stay together and make life-long memories.”
“We are so grateful to be a part of this community and to have support for our hiking adventure to raise money and awareness as we continue to hike.”
To learn how you can effectively fundraise and find creative ideas during COVID-19, visit The Longest Day