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Steve Schwalbach honors mom in ‘Jackie’s Run,’ part of Alzheimer’s Association’s ‘Longest Day’ fundraiser

By Maridith Yahl
NKyTribune reporter

Many are facing the task of caring for a senior parent who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Steve Schwalbach, a nice and down to earth guy of Ft. Thomas, is one of those, and he shares his experiences to promote awareness.

In 2000 his mother, Jackie Schwalbach, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

“She suffered for 15 years,” Steve said, emphasizing suffered. She passed away in 2015.

Steve and his team — last year’s run (Photos provided)

At the time of diagnosis, Steve’s mom lived in Ft. Thomas. For the “first couple of years [Steve and his five siblings] could tell something was not right.” After six years she was at the point of needing around-the-clock attention. Steve and his siblings stepped up and each chose a day of the week to care for their mom. Jackie went where they went.

Steve remembers, “If the kids had ballgames that day, she went with us.”

Eventually, she moved to Sarasota, Florida, and so did Steve. She slowly became bed-ridden for the last four to five years of her life.

“She would do anything for anyone. She was a sweetheart, bubbly at all time. Always bubbly and really funny,” Steve remembers.

Steve and his mom, Jackie

That made the diagnosis hard because at times the family wasn’t sure if there was something wrong or if it was just her usual funny self. She always made jokes about her forgetfulness before and after diagnosis.

In 2014 Steve decided to join the effort in raising funds for research and awareness about Alzheimer’s and dementia. He went back to an old love, running, and turned it into a mission. Steve began running for Highlands High School during his sophomore year, being on a state winning team the next. He continued to run through college but didn’t become serious about it until 2010 when he ran his first marathon.

“I was hooked at that point. I ran four that year.”

So far he has run 70 marathons.

On June 21, Steve will take part in the Alzheimer’s Association’s “The Longest Day,” a fundraiser and awareness project. Participants pick an activity and turn it into a fundraiser. This is where Steve turned to his love of running. His event is “Jackie’s Run” in memory of his mother. His day will begin at 5 p.m. in Dayton, Ohio. He will then run through the night and all the next day for a total of 100 miles.

Steve says “this will take a 27-hour time period.”

He plans to finish Saturday evening around 8 p.m. in Ft. Thomas at the corner of Highland & Grand Avenues. You are invited to the finish line, Steve would love to see you there. The cheers will encourage him and your support will mean a lot.

A 27-hour run sounds pretty lonely, but Steve will not be alone.

“I have a crew of people who follow me.”

Julie Crawford is one who will be keeping watch for his health and safety. She has done this with him before and knows for what to be on the lookout for. Providing moral support and conversation, friends of Steve will jump in and join him along the way. He has a large group of people who take turns running with him for about 4 to 5 miles. Steve and his running partners will take a water/nutrition break about that often too.

Karen Drees, his sister, will accompany Steve, “not as a runner but as a biker. She will meet up and bike with me for a while.”

He’s glad to have family with him during event. Drees has also supported him this way during other local events. When Steve talks about his family it is obvious how close they are and how much they mean to each other.

Team Jackie at last year’s finish line.

Are you wondering what a person thinks about during such a long run?

Steve says, “Everything. Lol. I love to run with someone to shoot the bull, we talk about everything. I try to stay away from politics and religion. You can lose a friend over those two topics.”

This run is far from Steve’s first long-distance run for the Alzheimer’s Association. He began his fundraising and awareness campaign in 2014 when he ran across the state of Kentucky, Pine Knot to Newport, in 7 days. The following year it was the state of Ohio. He has gone on to run across the states of California, Florida, and Rhode Island. Steve’s passion to raise money and especially awareness about Alzheimer’s is evident in putting himself through these grueling runs.

The advice Steve would give someone who has a loved one diagnosed with Alzheimer’s is “Always be patient with your loved one. Especially when the parent is confused. Most of them love to listen to music – play music around them.”

The Alzheimer’s Association shares that 1-in-3 seniors will die of Alzheimer’s or dementia. Steve wants everyone to know this statistic and be aware. In his voice, you can hear the sadness as he says “we need to find a cure,” in an almost tired and soft voice. Then he repeats, “we need to find a cure.”

Steve has a goal of raising $3,000 this year for Jackie’s Run.

Help Steve fight Alzheimer’s on the Longest Day, go to Jackie’s Run. Raising awareness; remembering his mother Jackie Schwalbach.

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