Fundraiser: Shira Schlessinger and Kate Albert are among the local students working to fight Alzheimer’s. Courtesy photo

Santa Monica youth are stepping up to help raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care through dedicated cookie sales and working to organize the annual awareness walk.

Two teenaged girls from Windward High School, Shira Schlessinger, 17 and Kate Albert, 18 have been taking cookie orders since February, and monthly they deliver “Goodies for Granny” throughout the city. They have raised and donated over $3,000 to date to support Alzheimer’s support, research and advocacy. They pile up their cars with decorated boxes and spend hours delivering.

“I volunteer because I feel Alzheimer’s is a topic many do not talk about, despite how many people it impacts,” Albert said. “I hope to contribute to fighting Alzheimer’s for my grandma, and for my best friend, Shira and her family who have struggled with it in the past. I began learning about Alzheimer’s through my grandma and the stories she used to tell about her old friends. She lost many friends due to Alzheimer’s.”

Ashyah Hewage, 16, another Santa Monica high schooler, has become the second-ever youth ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Association’s second largest chapter territory, and she is focusing on building up the local Walk to End Alzheimer’s Santa Monica while educating peers about the disease.

She is scheduling talks to youth about Alzheimer’s and brain health, leading a walk team and has pledged to raise over $1,000 on her own to donate to the fight against Alzheimer’s. She’s begun creating online videos and strategizing her campaign. She participates in honor of her aunt.

“My Aunt Chulani was unfortunately diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease three years ago. Seeing her liveliness and jubilance diminish into a person who was constantly depressed, upset, and forgetful, was something that was extremely hard to deal with. Instead of letting this sad and frustrating disease bring our entire family down, our aunt encouraged us to learn more about the disease, find ways to help others going through similar experiences as her,” Ashyah said. “And join the fight to find a cure. Although her memory is fading away, her spirit and kindness will last forever, as well as her wish to help others experiencing Alzheimer’s. I love listening to music with my Aunt Chulani, especially music that she listened to when she was younger as that brings her much joy and sometimes brings her memories of the times when she listened to that song.”

The first five of 13 Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s kicks off Saturday with the walk officially coming to Santa Monica on Oct. 24.

Scott Rahn, Walk to End Alzheimer’s Santa Monica Chair will lead the Santa Monica walk, an event which is returning to in-person. Meanwhile, Hewage will begin to foster participation and fundraising through the end of the year.

The event has raised funds for the local community and that has raised over $200,000 since 2019. Due to these numbers, the Association offers more than 40 online and telephone support groups, educational programs and social engagement opportunities to Santa Monica and Westside residents, all free-of-charge.

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