The Buchignani family has been supporting the Alzheimer Society of B.C. as committed volunteers for nearly 30 years, spanning three generations. The family has made an indelible mark on the organization – and a real impact on how British Columbian families experience the dementia journey.
Reg and Sally Buchignani first set foot in the Alzheimer Society of B.C.’s headquarters in the early ‘90s, at a time when it was only a few people working from a tiny corner unit on Vancouver’s Cordova Street. Reg’s mother Mary had just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and a friend had referred them to the Society for assistance.Reg and Sally, who had connected seeking resources and support, soon became active and passionate volunteers themselves.
Sally volunteered in the office, and both she and Reg spent many years on organizing committees for several key fundraising events including a gala and the Forget Me Not Golf Tournament, the latter of which to date has raised more than $10 million in support of the Society. Their early efforts helped cement the success of these events. “We were inventing things as we went along,” Reg says of his early years as volunteer chair of the Forget Me Not Golf Tournament, a role that he held for 10 years. “I was on the phone trying to get volunteers – and now it’s like they’re calling me.”
Reg and Sally instilled this same spirit of volunteerism in their children and grandchildren, who have participated in fundraising and other events for the Society. The family spent more than a decade visiting Mary in residential care facilities as her disease progressed and as she neared the end of her life. They saw firsthand the depth of need to support families affected by dementia.
Together with their daughter Michele, who is now a prominent member of Vancouver’s business community, they made a legacy donation to recognize and support the staff at Mary’s care residence after her death. Continuing the commitment started by her parents, Michele has also become a passionate advocate – and a powerhouse volunteer – for the Alzheimer Society of B.C.
Michele, who is the past board chair, has been on the Alzheimer Society of B.C.’s board of directors for nearly eight years. It feels natural for her to apply her leadership skills and business acumen to the cause. “Giving my time to the Alzheimer Society of B.C. was a natural fit following my parents’ passion for the charity,” says Michele, who was also a member of the board of the Alzheimer Society of Canada and chair of the Federation Partners Council of the Alzheimer Federation of Canada. “It’s a passion born from seeing both the impact of dementia on families and the support the Alzheimer Society of B.C. is able to provide.”
Beyond her volunteer roles, which have included chairing the volunteer committee for another of the Society’s fundraising events, Hockey for Alzheimer’s, Michele has another close connection to dementia. She was a family caregiver to her former partner’s father, who died of the disease in December 2017.
“Taking on a role of family caregiver once more truly underscored for me the growing need for the Society’s support and education services,” Michele says. While Michele devoted her time to executive leadership within the provincial and national Societies, for many years, Sally continued volunteering in the Vancouver office “because it’s a cause I believe in,” Sally says.
Reflecting on their time volunteering, Reg and Sally say it’s the friendships they formed, the good times they shared and their personal connection to the disease that have kept them engaged.
“We’ve continued to help so someone else wouldn’t have to go through what we went through,” says Reg, a seasoned public speaker who still chokes up when he talks about his mother. Michele concurs: “Though my grandmother’s journey with dementia ended many years ago, we’ve stayed committed to the Society’s ultimate vision of a world without Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias. If we can build a dementia-friendly B.C., we can make the journey a little easier for those British Columbians who are currently on it.”
Join the Buchignani family and other people affected by dementia by attending the Investors Group Walk for Alzheimer’s on Sunday, May 6 in one of 23 locations across the province. Together, we can come together to create a community of courage that will change the face of the disease. Together, we make memories matter. Register today!