Rachel Brooks had been waiting all summer to celebrate the life, love and legacy of her father-in-law.
On Saturday, she finally got her chance.
With the annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s transformed into a virtual version in the Denver area on September 19, Brooks was one of many Empower employees to hit their stride “from home” in a passionate effort to raise money, hope and awareness for the sixth-leading source of death in the U.S. Brooks, whose father-in-law passed away in June after a 10-year battle with the disorder, joined the fight by sporting purple, teaming up with close friends and hiking 2.5 miles around her neighborhood.
“We miss him so much,” said Brooks, a sales support senior coordinator at Empower. “We were looking forward to this opportunity to remember him. It was a beautiful morning and a peaceful experience for us.”
In addition to corporate and associate donations, Empower and the Denver Broncos partnered together to each give $1 to the Alzheimer’s Association when individuals used both #Walk2EndALZ and #EmpowerACTs in posts on social media. In all, Empower and the Broncos donated an additional $15,000 each as a result of the contest. The winning game plan generated millions of impressions online, as the organizations helped spread the word on defeating an epidemic that currently impacts so many Americans.
“It was a fun, innovative way for people to still participate and build positive momentum to find a cure,” said Angie Ruddell, engagement and corporate social responsibility manager. “I think we were all hungry to take action, make a difference and rally behind a specific purpose. It was truly inspiring to see.”
For Brooks, she was more than ready to get involved, get outside and get moving in honor of her father-in-law, Kurt.
Due to ongoing safety, health and travel concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Brooks and her family have not been allowed to hold a formal service in Ohio and pay tribute to a man they lost too soon. So, in the interim, she decided to keep Kurt’s spirit alive — and her spirits up — by officially dedicating the recent Walk to End Alzheimer’s event to her husband’s dad, who died at the age of 74.
“This avenue was the perfect fit for us,” said Brooks, who began her career with Empower in 2014. “It’s definitely been a tough situation without having a memorial yet. But we will never forget Kurt and his amazing strength. Up until his last few months, he still had that same contagious energy, smile and charm.”
On top of enjoying a stroll in her community, Brooks also toured the drive-thru Promise Garden at Empower Field at Mile High on Friday evening. Volunteers from Empower were on site to lend a hand when it came to building the colorful flower display, directing lanes of traffic and assisting patrons with photos. It was four hours of colleagues coming together to play their role in tackling Alzheimer’s disease.
Cheerleaders from the Denver Broncos and Miles the mascot were also present to help champion the cause.
“It speaks to the depth of our relationship with the Broncos,” Ruddell said. “It’s one thing to have our name, signage and logo up there on the stadium. But we’re collaborating on new ideas and working closely to shed light on important matters. Going forward, we believe that’s a recipe for more success.”
While Chris Wallace was unable to attend the local festivities Friday, he woke up bright and early Saturday more eager than ever to hit his stride. After all, he knew just the place to go to step up for his ailing dad, who was diagnosed with a slowly developing case of Alzheimer’s in 2016 after suffering a stroke.
With his 6-year-old daughter by his side, Wallace embarked on a 7-mile journey at Mount Falcon Park in Morrison, Colorado — “a go-to trail” that he and his dad would often explore together while growing up. Throughout the 3-hour trek, Wallace tracked his overall progress on the Walk to End Alzheimer’s mobile app, uploaded pictures of his experience and promoted the #Walk2EndALZ and #EmpowerACTs hashtags.
“He loved hiking and being outdoors,” said Wallace, manager over documentation in the special product solutions department at Empower.
“I wanted to do this for him along with passing it onto our future generations.”
Wallace’s emotions were running extra high, too, as he’s only had limited in-person contact with his dad since March.
Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, Wallace’s dad was moved into a memory care facility to receive additional treatment for his condition. To comply with the wide range of protective protocols that have implemented at the complex, including a four-month lockdown, Wallace has relied on video phone calls, “big window waves” and physically distanced visits to stay connected during this new normal era.
“He doesn’t really understand why we can’t hug, but he still has an awesome attitude,” Wallace said. “I’ve always admired that about him — you have to do the best with what you got and cherish every moment.”
Brooks can certainly relate.
“Walking for Kurt gave me a strong sense of pride,” Brooks said. “He was a great person who lived a great life.”