“I remember the day that Heidi and I went to the neurologist to find out what the results of the testing were. The doctor told us that he thought Heidi had Alzheimer’s disease. We sat there in shock. We didn’t say much. Heidi was very strong emotionally. When we got to our car to go home, we both cried for a few minutes. The real journey had just begun,” so remembers Leon Vanderlinde, Heidi’s husband of 35 years.
In 2011, at age 49, Minnesota resident Heidi Vanderlinde was diagnosed with Younger-onset Alzheimer’s.
“Her spirit and love are both still there. Her strength is weakening, but the love and caring are still strong” Mr. Vanderlinde noted.
The picture above is Heidi in 2014 with her daughter Courtney who expedited her wedding to M.J. Iverson so that her mother, who was in declining health and would not be able to be cared for at home for much longer, could attend the ceremony held at their farm.
Heidi’s mother also has Alzheimer’s and her mother’s sister passed away from Younger-onset Alzheimer’s.
Nearly 6 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease and roughly 4 million of them are women. It is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
Results of a 16-year CDC study reported in 2017 reveal that Minnesota was one of the states in which the death rate climbed. Its age-adjusted Alzheimer’s death rate rose from 21.1 per 100,000 people in 1999 to 24.2 in 2014 — a 14.5 percent increase.
A few months after her wedding, in a quest to grow public awareness and raise resources to find ways to end this terrible disease, Courtney, who is now a mom herself (son Max is has been on each hunt), and works as a Senior Project Manager, created the Morels & Memories: Mushroom Hunt & Alzheimer’s Fundraiser.
May is morel season in Minnesota and the 4th Morels & Memories: Mushroom Hunt & Alzheimer’s Fundraiser will take place on Saturday, May 18 from 12:30p to 4p CST off of Swede Lake Road in Watertown, Minnesota. The Morchella esculenta, commonly known as the morel, was adopted as the official mushroom of the state of Minnesota in 1984.
“In addition to being a fun way to raise awareness and money, the mushroom hunt features tips on how to locate, identify, clean, store and prepare morels which cannot be cultivated and only grow in the wild. A live cooking demo, samples and recipes will be available along with live music,” Courtney noted.
All donations will go to the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund, a 501(c) (3) venture-based philanthropy headquartered in Wellesley, MA, dedicated to funding research with the highest probability of preventing, slowing or reversing Alzheimer’s disease.
Cure Alzheimer’s Fund has surpassed $89 million in research distributions for nearly 400 projects around the world. Its Board of Directors finances all overhead expenses so that 100% of all donations go to research.
“Courtney and her family are part of an exceptional group of amazing individuals who have taken the initiative to hold fundraising events across the globe, organizing everything from races to tournaments to concerts to mountain climbing, all to support finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease,” said Cure Alzheimer’s Fund CEO Tim Armour.
“We call them our “Heroes & Heroines” and we are grateful for their energy, passion, and resources and proud to be their organization of choice,” Armour added.
The beautiful photo above was taken at Courtney’s wedding by Rep. Joseph P. “Joe” McDonald, a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives for District 29A. His family and the Vanderlindes were neighbors, he’s been photographing Courtney’s family for close to 30 years, and he went to the same high school as Courtney’s parents.
Courtney was reunited with Rep. McDonald when she attended a Minnesota Alzheimer’s Rally Day at the capitol and had a chance to talk with him and other legislators. This year for the first time, Rep. McDonald has agreed to proclaim “Morels & Memories: Mushroom Hunt & Alzheimer’s Fundraiser benefitting Cure Alzheimer’s Fund” Day in the State of Minnesota.
We would be happy to arrange for you to interview Courtney Iverson, Rep. McDonald, the chefs, musicians, school children, University of MN Amateur Art Club students, representatives of Cure Alzheimer’s Fund and others who, by coming together for this fundraiser, are working to help rid the world of the scourge of Alzheimer’s disease – all inspired by Heidi Vandelinde.
“The irony is that a disease that steals your abilities and memories is the reason she will not be forgotten,” Courtney observed.