My grandpa, Keith Earl DeMeritt, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 1997 when I was only 9 years old. It progressed slowly at first, thankfully, and I have many wonderful memories goofing off with Gramps—pulling out all his golf clubs and listening to the Marches in his signature University of Michigan minivan and playing hearts or Phase 10 late into the night with Vernor’s ginger ale and Grandma’s classic pancakes and bacon. It was incredibly difficult to watch over the course of my teenage years as Alzheimer’s stole his mind, his strength, and ultimately his ability to communicate. Toward the end, the brief moments of clarity almost made it even more painful for us grandkids, as he would sometimes remember our names but then suddenly lapse back into confusion and disorientation. It was a rare comfort that he had such wonderful care at Elim Place, the Alzheimer’s home where he spent his final years, and where he passed peacefully in 2007, less than 10 years after his diagnosis and just a few weeks after his 83rd birthday.
Alzheimer’s disease currently afflicts more than 5 million people in the U.S., as well as the ~16 million family members who provide them with care. The current state of clinical research working toward finding a cure is very promising but very underfunded, which is why I am participating in the Ride to End ALZ, a fundraising event for the Alzheimer’s Association. Inspired by Gramps and by all of our family who worked so hard to care for him, I will be riding my bike as fast as I can for 50 miles around Chicagoland on Sunday, June 14. If we hit $500, I'll even go 60! Every dollar we raise goes directly to ongoing efforts to discover methods of treatment and prevention for Alzheimer’s disease. Given the crazy circumstances in the world, I know money is tight for many of us right now, but anything you can contribute to the cause will produce dividends in the fight against Alzheimer’s and will potentially save countless others from experiencing the devastating loss of their loved ones to this terrible disease.
Please join me in celebrating the memory of Grandpa Keith this month as I ride to end ALZ!
UPDATE: We have blown past my $500 goal and we're still going strong! Thank you all so very much for your incredible generosity—I am blown away and so inspired by your selfless giving. As promised, on Sunday I will now be pushing myself and riding 100 kilometers (62 miles)! Pray for me.