Cate Cash has been the Activity Director at Pacifica Senior Living Paradise Valley for nearly 2 years now. Cate's dedication, enthusiasm, and hard work is evident in everything she does, and her events, activities and support for her residents can be seen day in and day out throughout the community.
We chatted with Cate to dive into her story, what inspires her, and shine a light on the impact she and her team have had on their community.
Q: Can you share a little bit about your early life and career before Pacifica?
A: “I was born and raised in Fort Worth, Texas, and grew up as a barefooted tomboy who preferred dogs to dolls and wanted to become a professional boxer. While I never stepped into the ring, I did receive more than my fair share of hits in life, one of the hardest being the loss of my father in late 2013.
His passing led me into a devastating state of depression, but his memory and my desire to honor it pulled me back out. He was a man who, no matter the hardships, held a fervent love of life and believed in experiencing it to its fullest. "Have fun while you can, and if you ever have the opportunity to go and do something, go and do it!"
At 28, I took his words to heart and left my professionally successful yet personally unfulfilling career as an event marketing and promotions manager to pursue new paths that aligned with my desire to uplift and inspire the lives of others. I held an art exhibition to fund my certification as a personal trainer, launched my own fitness program, began motivational speaking, and started working on my first book up until my move here to Phoenix, Arizona, in July 2021.”
Q: How long have you worked at Pacifica Senior Living Paradise Valley? What made you want to work in senior living?
A: “I've been with Pacifica Senior Living Paradise Valley since August 2021, and had only begun to work in the senior living industry a short time prior. My move from Texas to Arizona was highly unexpected, and without a plan for employment in place, I accepted a position as a Silver Sneakers instructor for multiple communities, including Pacifica Senior Living Paradise Valley and our sister property in Peoria.
While I had previous experience training disabled and senior clients, working with those affected by Alzheimer's disease and dementia was a brand-new venture. I was enamored within my first session and by the end of my last, my heart was overflowing with a sense of purpose and appreciation; working with the residents was hands down one of the most gratifying experiences of my fitness career.
As much as I enjoyed my work with the communities, complications with the company I was contracted under led me to the unfortunate decision to seek alternative employment. When I reached out to our community's previous Activities Director to explain the situation and discuss the possibility of me continuing to work with the residents as a volunteer, I was absolutely shocked by their response.
Apparently my energy, enthusiasm, and interactions with the residents had made just as strong an impression on the community as they had on me. Instead of taking me on as a volunteer, I was invited to meet with our sites' Executive Director who offered me a permanent position with our community, officially making Pacifica Senior Living Paradise Valley my new home away from home.”
Q: Could you tell us about your involvement with the Alzheimer's Association, and how your community was able to raise an incredible $40,000 in 2022?
A: “Because I joined Pacifica Senior Living Paradise Valley just before the 2021 Walk to End Alzheimer's, I was not involved in the majority of the year's fundraising efforts. I was, however, introduced to a phenomenal group of women who were the longtime friends of one of our memory care residents, Harriet.
There wasn't a family present to support Harriet when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, instead it was this group of friends who rallied around her. As the disease progressed and Harriet began to decline, her friends realized no one of them could handle her needs on their own, it would "take a village" to care for her. And so that is what they became: "The Village."
Their history and the palpable passion this group held for the cause prompted me to reach out to "The Village" member Deanie Wlodek to partner with her on the coming year's walk. Deanie had captained the Pacifica Senior Living Paradise Valley's #Walk2EndAlz team for four years prior to my arrival and had laid the foundation for our 2022 success. Under her leadership, our community had raised a collective total of over $50k and had earned the title of Pacifica Senior Living's number one fundraising team two years in a row.
When our community's Executive Director, Heidi McLester, newly appointed Co-Captain, Kristina "Disco" Koontz, and I committed ourselves to matching Deanie's previous efforts, an important shift occurred. Just as "The Village" was necessary in ensuring Harriet's wellbeing, our dream of making a cure for Alzheimer's disease and dementia possible would require more than team "Pacifica Paradise Valley." We became "Our Village" and gave ourselves the challenge of a $20k goal, doubling that of the previous year.
Meeting such a massive number required immersing ourselves into our community and extending ourselves beyond our comfort zones, it was an exhausting but equally rewarding endeavor. I had few contacts here in Arizona, but those I reached out to were immensely supportive and were invaluable to our efforts. We owed our kickoff fundraiser to my barber, Mindi Breen, who offered to let us set up a vendor table outside her shop "Wolf Howl Honey" in order to participate in Artlink Arizona's First Friday event.
Not only did this allow us to raise funds and awareness in support of the walk, it was here that we connected with Katie Faller, Segment Producer of Good Morning Arizona. Katie made the arrangements and three weeks later, serendipitously on World Alzheimer's Day, we made the morning news with a live interview. GMZA helped further by spotlighting our upcoming, second fundraising event "Rock the Walk!"
Success followed after success, but our achievements weren't ours alone, everything we accomplished came from the united efforts of those within our community and beyond.
Our finale came when an anonymous donor made an agreement that if we reached our $20K goal by the walk date, they would match our contributions by 100%. On Friday, November 3rd, we hit our goal and doubled it to $40K, and on Saturday, November 4th, we led the "village" of Phoenix in the 2022 Walk to End Alzheimer's.”
Q: What is your favorite memory or moment from your time at Paradise Valley?
A: Picking one moment or memory is near impossible, the question alone draws a hundred "favorites" into mind in an instant. Convincing our Executive Director to take pies in the face by saying it would help to boost morale, howling at the moon with residents from the dining room during the middle of the day, hearing a non-verbal resident sing while you dance with her to "Fly Me to the Moon." There is no "one" of anything and for that I am grateful beyond my capabilities of expressing, this has truly been the experience of a lifetime.