Wise beyond her years, Sam knows the annual Walk and Run better than almost anyone.
She got involved as a child in the Vancouver event, just after her Grandpa Doug passed away. He lived with Alzheimer’s disease.
“I remember little pieces with my grandpa. My memories are from when I was really little. Family vacations and whatnot. He had this massive corn garden in the back.”
Since then, the Walk and Run has become a family staple. Like the ham that tempts their tastebuds on Thanksgiving weekend.
Now 22 years old, Sam still walks for her grandpa, and now her grandma, too.
Grandma Janice was diagnosed in 2010.
“When she was first diagnosed, I didn’t notice it as much. Now when we go back and visit, she can be very repetitive. But then there are days when she’ll ask out of the blue, how’s so-and-so doing?”
Sam adores her grandma to the core. “She was present for most of my childhood, and loved my brother and I so much, she was willing to do anything with us. She made time to play with us. She’s almost 92! I remember her sitting in my room as a kid, when I was 7 years old, gossiping about my first crush with her - and she would keep that secret.”
Now living in Calgary, Sam still travels to Vancouver to visit her grandma when she can. She’s gone to visit alongside her partner, her brother and her dad. Grandma Janice lives in a care facility now.
Sam shares a powerful moment of clarity from one of her visits.
“She used to watch me and my brother a lot, and we’d go down to Ambleside beach. One time I asked her if she remembered anything about that. She went off and told that story perfectly, how she’d push me around in my stroller, and we’d go on these massive seesaws. She used to protect me, pushing away the seagulls who came too close. It made me very emotional.”
Even though her grandma’s memory isn’t always there, Sam feels it’s essential to go see her.
“I visit her for her and I visit her for me.”
“For me she’s not gone, she’s still here. I want that time, and for her, maybe she won’t remember me being there, but I know she’ll remember the feeling of people visiting. The emotions still stay.”
“She’s still enjoying the visit and talking to me, and that matters. Talking to them, giving them time to express themselves and have conversations, is key. People need to know how important those conversations are, even if they are super repetitive.”
At 22, Sam has a degree in kinesiology and is pursuing another degree in education at the University of Calgary. Her goal is to teach high school or junior high phys ed., or coach grassroots soccer. “I love to spend time with kids, too.”
Photos show Sam growing up with her Grandpa Doug and her Grandma Janice. In the garden, at the beach, and visits with family along the way.