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Kyle Olson knows about loss.
Olson, a Keller Williams Inspire Realty agent in Fargo, North Dakota, spent 16 years watching Alzheimer’s transform his father, Dewey, from a hardworking farmer with a schedule that often stretched until midnight to a man who struggled to maintain a conversation for more than five minutes.
“It was really tough because there’s a lot of my adult life where it was hard to have a good conversation with him,” Olson told Inman. “A lot of times, I’d start the conversation and go, ‘Hey, Dad, How’s it going?’ Then five to ten minutes later, he’d forget what I said and start the conversation all over again. It was definitely a tough time to see him go through that.”
“I never want to see my kids go through that,” he added. “[My father] watched his dad go through it as well. I’m hoping that my kids will never have to experience [Alzheimer’s] themselves either. Or at least, I hope research and treatments will have improved so much to make it not quite so bad.”
Since his father’s death in 2019, Olson has donated 10 percent of his commissions to the Alzheimer’s Association of Minnesota and North Dakota and often sports a purple suit with the Alzheimer’s Association’s logo. However, he upped the ante in 2021 with the “Longest Open House Ever,” an annual fundraiser that takes place on the first day of summer alongside AA’s annual awareness event.
“I was trying to figure out how I could do more,” he said. “We’re always talking about the Alzheimer’s Association and how Alzheimer’s is kind of a slow goodbye. AAMND has a big charity event called ‘The Longest Day’ on the summer solstice to illustrate [the disease’s progression].”
“It was like, ‘How do I do something that connects with real estate?’ So I searched for the longest open house at the time, and said, ‘I’m gonna do it better.'”
Olson said the first “Longest Open House Ever” was a bit of a logistical nightmare, as he had to find a homeseller who’d allow him to keep their home open for nearly three days straight. He finally settled on using a model home in a builder community and called on his professional sphere to build a tidy schedule of events for visitors, who could enjoy free tacos and cookies from local restaurants as Olson live-streamed for 62 hours.
“Ultimately, the cause behind it kept me going,” he said while reminiscing on his achy joints, throbbing feet and sleep-deprived eyes. “Just knowing that people are going through this on a daily basis and watching their loved ones struggle for so long. Being live all the time and getting different engagement on social media was also very motivating as well.”
Olson raised $7,000 the first year and has increased the stakes every year since, with the 2022 and 2023 open houses collectively garnering $33,000 in donations. The 2023 fundraiser had the largest slate of events, with 40 sponsors providing free subs, tacos and Korean corndogs to visitors, hosting Jazzercise classes in the home’s driveway, and gifting a Sea-Doo to one lucky guest.
Olson’s work earned him the North Dakota Association of Realtors’ 2022 Good Neighbor Award and recognition from the National Association of Realtors on Friday, which dedicated an Instagram post to Olson’s open houses.
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“I’d rather be in the community being part of something than cold-calling people,” he said of the connection between philanthropy and real estate. “It’s allowed me to open up opportunities with all these people I serve with.”
Olson is already planning for 2024 and hopes to expand the “Longest Open House Ever” to three cities in the quest to reach $100,000 in lifetime donations to the Alzheimer’s Association.
“This is my passion,” he said.