We provide hope to caregivers and help empower, encourage, and inspire them through their journey.
Our Core Values
Dignity of life
Coach Bill Lam is a husband, father, grandfather, brother, and mentor. But he may best be known for the 30 years he spent as head coach of wrestling at the University of North Carolina. Under Coach Lam’s guidance, UNC wrestlers won 15 ACC team championships and produced five national champions and 93 individual conference champions. He was recognized in the sport as National Coach of the Year and National Man of the Year. Lam was also named ACC Coach of the Year 10 times, and many of his team members have gone on to become strong and successful leaders in their own right – from CEOs, to surgeons, lawyers, city managers, and head wrestling coaches.
Since retiring from UNC, Lam has continued to share his 40+ years of leadership experience through his Impact & Legacy Summit, speaking engagements, public appearances, and writing. He is also a Governor’s Associate for the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, providing advice and counsel to the organization’s Board of Governors in betterment of the sport. Coaching Caregivers is his newest passion – one that comes from personal experience.
Called To Action
“Like one out of three Americans, my family has dealt with Alzheimer’s,” says Lam. “My grandparents were pioneers – hardworking people out in Wyoming. My grandfather worked in the oil fields, eventually becoming a justice of the peace; and my grandmother rode her horse five miles each way to teach at the local school. They had a rough life. When my grandmother developed Alzheimer’s, my grandfather had to quit his job to become a full time caregiver. It was incredibly stressful for him.
“Not long after, I saw first-hand the heartache of having my father – someone who had been so dynamic – slowly fade away. I also saw the toll on those caring for him – in many ways, this disease is much harder on the caregivers. They are the ones who see and understand the loss as their loved ones fade away. As I learned more about Alzheimer’s and shared my family’s story, heard from many others I know that their families had also been touched by Alzheimer’s and dementia.”
Coach Dean Smith, a UNC basketball legend, was Lam’s mentor. Smith died from Alzheimer’s in 2015. “I learned a lot of early lessons from Coach Smith,” says Lam. “Here was another person | considered ‘family’ facing the devastation of Alzheimer’s. It was hard to see him decline and reach the point where he didn’t recognize me anymore. That said, I know it was even harder for those caring for him.”
Among others close to Lam, UNC Coach Roy Williams’ sister died from Alzheimer’s. Homer Rice, the former UNC athletic director who hired Lam back in 1974, was the caregiver for his first wife when she was diagnosed with the disease. He stopped traveling in order to be there for her. Friend Eddie Smith, CEO of Grady White Boats, is a caregiver for his wife, who suffers from the disease. She recently moved into a long-term care facility where he visits her every day. Their stories have all had a strong influence on Lam, cementing his decision to help caregivers.
Meet My Dad
William “Kayo” Lam was (as his son describes him) “a force of nature.” He was an incredible student and athlete earning seven varsity letters at the University of Colorado in football, track, and wrestling. After graduating, he ended up working for the University as the assistant dean of men, assistant football coach and, eventually, business manager. Kayo was inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame in 1978. “Kayo” had a dance band and, at one point, played with the Glenn Miller band. He also enjoyed tap dancing as a means to stay fit.
“I was at a family reunion in my late 30’s,” says Coach Lam. “My father looked at my brother, Blaine, and asked him where Blaine was. Unfortunately, this was the first indicator I had that something was wrong.” After a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, Lam tried to spend as much time as possible with his father. A favorite pastime during his visits was to take a ride out for ice cream in the convertible so his father could enjoy the sunshine.
Eventually, Kayo ended up in a memory care center. “As the disease progressed, he sometimes became aggressive,” says Lam. “It reached a point where it wasn’t safe for him to be cared for at home anymore. This path helped me understand the role of a caregiver can, at times, feel thankless. However, you strive to do all you can, but the person you love the most will likely never know. You live for the moments of clarity they may have, that minute when there seems to be a flash of who they were, and accept they truly aren’t gone but very much alive in your memories.”
How Can We Help?
Help us help those who care for those with Alzheimer’s and dementia by providing financial support or making a donation in memory of a loved one; in-kind support; sponsoring a caregiver; volunteer; attend an event; or help us spread the word.