Cumberland woman running Boston Marathon for those with Alzheimer’s

Jackie Mundry with her grandmother Mary Ellen Look. Mundry is running this year’s Boston Marathon to raise funds for the Alzheimer’s Association in honor of her grandmother who died last year. Contributed / Jackie Mundry

Cumberland resident Jackie Mundry will run the Boston Marathon this month to honor her late grandmother, a single mom who lovingly raised three children while working for NASA and then a law firm.

Mary Ann Look died last June after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, and Mundry entered the marathon to raise awareness about the disease and money to research it.

“She was incredible. We were very close,” Mundry said. “My dad worked nights and my mom worked during the day, so I had that three-hour period in between where they were working that I always spent with her. She was the best person in the world.”

Look had a successful career working for NASA in Florida during the “Space Race” of the 1960s and eventually went on to work for a law firm in Boston before her diagnosis. She raised Mundry’s mother and two other children and also became a big part of Mundry’s father’s family, who welcomed her with open arms and remained very close to her throughout life.

Mundry’s parents used to take her to watch the Boston Marathon when she was growing up in Massachusetts, and she always knew that one day she’d run in the iconic race. In 2020, she ran the marathon virtually and this year joined up with Team End Alz, which is raising money that will go directly to the Alzheimer’s Association for research and to provide care and support for those living with the disease.

“(Team End Alz) sent us a training packet when we were accepted to the team with a long sleeve purple training shirt and on the back it says ‘Running for the first survivor,'” Mundry said. “That hit me like a ton of bricks because there’s never been a survivor of Alzheimer’s or dementia. It’s a horrible disease and it’s really hard to see your loved ones deteriorate like that before your eyes.”

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, in 2020, there were 29,000 people 65 and older with Alzheimer’s in Maine. In 2019, 544 people in Maine alone died from Alzheimer’s disease.

Mundry works as a television reporter for NewsCenter Maine and has covered the elder care crisis in the state. In just the past seven months, Maine has lost five nursing homes and one assisted living community, creating a lack of available care for all seniors, including those with memory loss. The net result is a 278-bed loss, according to the Maine Health Care Association.

“Needing to move someone who is experiencing memory loss can be scary and confusing. I’ve talked to a lot of families who are terrified. My grandma saved and was able to afford care for herself, but not everyone is that lucky,” Mundry said. “I’m obviously doing this in her honor, but it’s also really important to have these resources available for families who aren’t as fortunate and might be dealing with harder situations. It’s really exciting to see that money be used for that.”

As of April 4, Mundry had raised about $12,400 of her $15,000 goal, including matching gifts.

Mundry is raising money until the day of the marathon on April 18. Her fundraiser can be found at givengain.com/activist/505268/projects/43945/.

The Alzheimer’s Association’s free 24/7 Helpline is 800-272-3900 and is available for anyone living with dementia, family members, or caregivers looking for information or support.

“We are so grateful to people like Jackie, who honor those dealing with dementia by raising critical funds for our mission,” said Drew Wyman, executive director of the Maine Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. “Money raised allows us to serve more families through care consultations, support groups, education classes, our 24/7 helpline and more. Plus, exercise is good for brain health, so go Jackie!”

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