“We try to make as many people aware of the fight to end Alzheimer’s as we can. Even if they’re not impacted by it today, it doesn’t mean they won’t be impacted by it tomorrow.”
Dave and Roxzan Sukola have been together since they were 19 and married for 40 years. They have four children and seven grandchildren.
In 2005, Dave was diagnosed with younger-onset Parkinson’s disease at the age of 47. Then in 2010, he and Roxzan noticed odd things happening with his memory and he began losing weight. They realized something other than Parkinson’s was affecting Dave, so they decided to see their family physician. That’s when Dave was diagnosed with younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
“It was difficult in the beginning. They ran a lot of tests and tried out different medications,” says Roxzan. “There were days when Dave didn’t even remember who I was. So that was the hardest part.”
After many struggles, they now have a great doctor and the right medication to help alleviate some of the symptoms Dave was experiencing. Roxzan says, “He’s doing a lot better now and he knows all of his family members. Seven years into this disease and — knock on wood — we’re still in a pretty good place.”
Roxzan credits her family with keeping hope alive throughout this journey. “It’s brought our family so much closer together. Our kids are fabulous. They go out of their way to help their dad, and they also do everything they can to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s disease. With everything they do, it really brings it home to Dave how much they care and that they’re out there, actively doing something to help.”
One of the ways the Sukola family has been involved in the fight is by participating in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Their daughter Krisie first heard about the Walk in 2011 and decided to start a team. “The first year, it was just me, Krisie, and a few of her girlfriends walking in Seattle,” remembers Roxzan. “Then we started recruiting more people, doing more fundraising, and it just took off from there.” The team, named Dave’s Divas, is now 30 members strong and has raised nearly $4,000 so far this year.
Roxzan also started participating in Walks throughout Washington State. In 2017, she walked in seven of the 16 Walks hosted by the Washington State chapter — and in total, she’s taken part in over 20 Walks. She’s traveled as far south as Longview, as far north as Everett and as far east as Spokane. Next year, she hopes to go farther north to Mount Vernon and make it to a Walk in Idaho.
“I like to meet other people that are involved, see what they’ve done, and how much they’ve raised. Sometimes I just go and walk on my own. It feels good because you know that everybody is there for the same reason.”
Roxzan and her family also found other creative ways to raise money for the cause. They’ve held yard sales, car washes, and sold ornaments and herbal pillows at holiday bazaars. “For us, it’s not just about the money we’re raising, it’s about connecting with people and spreading the word about Alzheimer’s,” says Roxzan.
“People will stop by our yard sale because they have a family member who has been diagnosed. They ask us who they should talk to or what they should do. We’ll have brochures there and we tell them about the resources that are available. If we’re able to help just one person, we know we’re making a difference.”
She adds, “Of course, we enjoy seeing Dave’s Divas on the Walk leaderboard too! It validates the hard work we’ve done.”
One way they keep their team motivated to continue fundraising is through the Dave’s Divas Facebook page. Dave, who was formerly a computer programmer, started the page and enjoys updating it regularly. It’s his way to contribute to and connect with the team.
Dave’s Divas has given the Sukola family a wonderful platform to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s — not just during walk season, but throughout the year.
“We appreciate each and every person that supports us throughout the year. Whether you do it because you are friends, family, or complete strangers, our hearts are touched by each penny put in our jar, each car you help wash and each ‘God bless you’ we hear.”