My AAQI Quilts


Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative (AAQI)  officiallly ended its fund raising efforts in December of 2013 after being in operation since 2006. Ami Simms, the Board of Directors and countless numbers of volunteers earned well over One Million Dollars for Alzheimer's Research funding.I am deeply proud to have been an active volunteer in this organization, having had many, many family members suffer from Alzheimer's or a related dementia. While helping this organization, I was proud to form this volunteer group based on Internet bloggers/quilters from all over the world. Our small group created and donated over 600 quilts for AAQI and Alzheimer's research funding.  And I, personally, created and donated 75 quilts while still actively taking care of my mother during her" long goodbye"

This is my story:.

I discovered the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative in 2006, but I never thought I'd have the time to make and donate quilts to them. After all, I had been caring for my mother since 2002 when she was first diagnosed with stage 3b of inflammatory breast cancer. She had survived moving down from Alaska and living with me for 9 months, and having intense chemo, a mastectomy, and radiation...only to develop Alzheimer's Disease just two years later.

How could I possible do any more than I already was, when caring for her, making and donating quilts for my community, keeping up with my new love of blogging, and having three kids and a husband already kept me so busy?
 
Somehow, I knew I could... and I knew that I really, really wanted to try.

So, a few years after my mother's recovery from cancer and all of its treatments, when I realized she was showing the symptoms of Alzheimer's...paranoia, hallucinations, huge mood swings etc. I had a new challenge to help her, and my father. And somehow we became a team, once again.  I  was traveling back and forth between Oregon and Alaska ...now helping my parents with their health challenges and my mother's care, when I  brought up two pieces of fabric that I quilted to batting ahead of time, a packet of beads, a pair of scissors and needle and thread, and one small piece of fabric for backing.

I used those few supplies in my extremely limited free time and made my first small postcards. These tiny 4"x6" postcards, made in Alaska as I cared for both my mom and dad,  became my first 6 donations. They were all a pale pink and didn't photograph well, and I felt badly that I didn't even have a sewing machine to make them better than they were. But they sold and I was so grateful! And I loved making them so very much!


Traveling back and forth between Oregon and Alaska for as much as four times a year and all of the care giving was so hard... but I knew I wanted to get back to this very special cause that I had discovered.

I began to make a whole new batch of AAQI quilts in 2010...my most challenging year of all. Taking care of both parents, I slipped on the worst black ice in the Juneau area's history and broke two wrist bones and dislocated three of them. I needed immediate surgery and had to have it done there, the first surgery of my life, while still caring for my parents.

I had just started the Liberated Quilting Challenge for online quilters on New Year's Day before heading to Alaska, In spite of all of these multiplied challenges, breaking my wrist, having my dad have two heart attacks while I was there... I still survived them, cared for my parents with one good arm, and proved to myself that I was capable of so much more than I had ever thought I was.

I came back to Oregon (and my fabric and sewing machine) in March of 2010, and other family members came in to help my parents so I could have a break,  and I was so grateful that I began to sew like crazy! And I loved every minute of this new creativity for such a worthwhile and important cause!

When I had two of my quilts selected for the traveling exhibit Alzheimer's Illustrated: From Heartbreak to Hope, and  I also joined the $1,000 Promise, I became even more committed to this wonderful cause and eventually pledged a minimum contribution of one quilt a month for the Quilt A Month challenge. I knew I could make them, it was the timing that made me nervous...after all I had been flying back to Alaska on a moment's notice for so many years!

It hasn't been easy. It has been very hard. Other family members have become seriously ill, a MIL needs constant in home care, friend's have lost family members and need my support...my list only grew instead of diminishing. But I still wanted to make, and donate quilts to AAQI, as well as to my community, and I have. It is incredibly empowering to do that which others think they cannot, and which you doubt in yourself...you don't just try, but you try and keep on trying.

And to alleviate my fears that I might not maintain my Quilt a Month Challenge..well, I just made sure to have at least one quilt and more if I could manage to create them..made ahead..just in case of traveling emergencies!

In the end, before AAQI closed shop on Dec. 31, 2013...I had made, donated, and they had sold 75 of my quilts for Alzheimer's Research Funding...all profits from each sale going directly to that funding.

My small group of less than 3 dozen total quilters, with maybe about one dozen creating the majority of the quilts...had created over 540 quilts in just 3 years of our own little formation!!!

I couldn't be prouder of this group or my own smaller group of liberated quilters!!!