“This disease does not discriminate. It could affect any one of us,” Jane Mikita Gneiser said at the Alzheimer’s Association Oak Brook Reason to Hope luncheon. Jane highlighted an emotional memory of her father and hockey legend, Stan Mikita, who was diagnosed with suspected dementia with Lewy bodies in 2015. “This is not the path we thought my dad or entire family would take. It changed us as a family, individually and it changed the structure of our lives forever.”
Stan Mikita is one of more than five million Americans living with dementia who are affected by the emotional and physical strains of this relentless disease. With more than 220,000 Illinois residents living with dementia and an additional 590,000 caregivers, there has never been a more critical time to raise awareness and funds to eradicate this disease. Reason to Hope is a one-hour event aiming to educate the community about the impact of this disease while raising funds and support for Alzheimer’s disease and other related dementias.
A record breaking 240 people joined to honor Chicago Blackhawks legend Stan Mikita at the Oak Brook Reason to Hope luncheon at the Hyatt Lodge at McDonald’s Campus on April 6. The event, chaired by Jennifer Convery, raised more than $110,000 for Alzheimer’s care, support and research. CBS 2 Chicago’s Rob Johnson and Irika Sargent emceed the event and presented the first Reason to Hope Courage Award to the Mikita family. The Courage Award is given to those who have shown immense courage with their public disclosure of an Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis. The Mikita family has been champions of the cause, helping to promote a greater understanding of the disease. Attendees also heard from Elgin resident Tom Doyle, who spoke about his experience living with dementia with Lewy bodies.
Attendees raised another $23,000 at the North Shore Reason to Hope hosted at The Glen Club in Glenview on April 20. Public address announcer for the Chicago Blackhawks and Chicago White Sox Gene Honda presented the Courage Award to the Bob Chinn family in memory of Jean Chinn, who passed away from Alzheimer’s disease in 2016. Guests listened to Ian Lapidus-Saltz, who shared his story about his wife Wendy’s journey with dementia.
Another 250 guests raised more than $117,000 at the Chicago event held at the Hyatt Regency and emceed by WGN’s Dean Richards. Attendees honored Marshall Brodien, best known for his role as Wizzo the Wizard on “Bozo’s Circus.” His wife, Mary Doyle Brodien, shared her heartbreaking story of her husband’s ongoing battle with Alzheimer’s disease. Guests also heard from Chicago natives Anne and Bruce Hunt, who spoke about Anne’s diagnosis and how it has impacted her daily life.
The three luncheons raised critical awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support, research, and ultimately a hope of finding a cure. As the Oak Brook luncheon came to a close, Jane Mikita’s words resonated with attendees. “Change is not always a bad thing. It has changed our family in that now we are closer, we communicate more openly, and we are fiercely protective of Stan. It has shown us how to be stronger as individuals and most importantly it has given us a reason to hope.”
If you would like to make a donation, or learn more about Reason to Hope, please visit ReasonToHope.ILorg. Special limited photos signed by Blackhawks Alumni Denis Savard, Bobby Hull and Tony Esposito are also available. Prints are $250 with proceeds benefitting the Alzheimer’s Association, Greater Illinois Chapter. Photos can be purchased at the Blackhawks’ Michigan Avenue store location or over the phone at 312-759-0079.