Alan De Leon
is fundraising to honor:
his father Rene De Leon.
My dad, Octavio Rene De Leon, immigrated to the United States from Guatemala as an adult. He was a professional soccer player for several local clubs as well as the Guatemalan national team. Due to political unrest he decided to leave his country in pursuit of a more stable life. Speaking little English, and with a few dollars in his pocket, he got to working odd jobs here and there just to survive. Along the road he met my uncles and grandfather playing soccer for their club where he was introduced to my mom not long after.
Their relationship grew but was met with a challenge. My dad was given the opportunity to leave the country and continue playing soccer in Europe, but my mom decided to stay behind. In my mom's favorite part of the story, he would call her and "beg" for her to join him. After refusing for what seemed like forever, my dad decided to leave Europe behind in order to be with my mom. Several years, and two kids, later he worked hard despite many challenges to provide for me and my family. Growing up, I remember coming home and doing homework alongside my dad who was studying to become an aircraft engineer. I simply cannot imagine going to a country where I didn't master the language and then learning something complex using that same language. It's truly a testament to my father's work ethic and determination to get the job done at all costs.
I remember he worked grueling hours, often in different states, just to make sure my sister and I had everything we wanted. Until recently, my father described the horrific treatment he received for being an immigrant all throughout his career, being called an illegal, having his tools stolen, and even his property vandalized just because he spoke English with an accent. Instead of quitting he put his head down and continued to work with a joyful spirit. He said when times got tough he remembered who he was working for and soldiered on. Never once did I hear a word of complaint, he simply smiled and maintained his "Super Fantastic" attitude that he has become affectionately known for. I'm proud to have learned the value an indomitable spirit can have in life. I owe a lot of who I am today to his love and support.
Roughly six years ago, my dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. I remember he was forced to retire early and he really struggled to slow down and soak in his new way of life. I too struggled to see the progression of this disease slowly take away my father's independence that sustained him throughout his life. Lately, he has good days and some really bad days but whenever someone asks him how he's doing he always responds with an energetic, "Super Fantastic!" Even in the midst of his biggest challenge yet, he's maintaining such a positive attitude.
As difficult as it is to watch this strong man struggle with this disease he continues to put forth his magical personality more days than not. I'm infinitely proud of everything he has accomplished and sacrificed for me to have the life I enjoy today. Although I may never be able to fully repay him for the sacrifices he made for me I want to honor him by challenging myself in this marathon.
The Longest Day is the day of the year with the most light — the summer solstice. And it's the day I have committed to fight Alzheimer's disease! I’m participating in The Longest Day, a fundraising event to advance the care, support and research efforts of the Alzheimer's Association.
Today, an estimated 50 million people worldwide are living with Alzheimer's or other dementias, including more than 5 million Americans. In the United States alone, 16 million friends and family members are providing their care. We must take action now, or these numbers will continue to rise.
Thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to read a little glimpse into my dad's story! Your support in any way, shape, or form is appreciated. Thank you for supporting me in this cause to fight Alzheimer's.
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