Wreck claims local teenager, injures another

Although there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight for the coronavirus, 2021 has been a good year in terms of gains made in bringing another health threat, Alzheimer’s disease, under control, including the emergence of a promising drug.

“More people are becoming aware and more people are getting involved,” said Pamela Padgett, who helps lead efforts in Surry County to fight the debilitating disease that affects 6.2 million Americans.

This included Padgett’s co-chairing of the annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s Disease held at Riverside Park in Mount Airy on September 18, with Robin Portis, and other efforts to generate the funds needed for the fight and draw attention to the problem.

“As the year draws to a close and the last fundraiser supporting our local walk wraps up, we are impressed with all the awareness and funds that have been raised,” added Padgett.

She’s the director of human resources for Behavioral Services Inc. in Mount Airy and, like many people, lost someone to Alzheimer’s disease — a grandmother, Mae Holt, in 2018 — which left her motivated her to get involved in efforts to find a cure.

Although the walk took place in December as a major fundraising effort for this cause with the help of teams, money continued to be generated in late 2021.

“Our ending total for the year is $77,582,” Padgett reported Wednesday, which she says is a record amount.

“This total is a testament to the commitment to ending Alzheimer’s disease,” she observed. “To still be in a pandemic and to be able to raise so much money is phenomenal.”

Real teamwork

After the annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s was conducted on a virtual basis in 2020 – due to COVID – but has returned to normal in a big way.

“This year we had 66 teams, the most teams in the history of our local walk, and 368 participants, which was also a record number,” Padgett said of the event. It is organized in conjunction with the Western Carolina Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.

Individual teams – from businesses, families, churches and civic groups – ran mini-campaigns that added up the total, with one involving G&B Energy (captain of Natalie Eidson) leading the way by generating 11 $000.

Other top teams were fielded by the RidgeCrest retirement community, which raised $9,468 under the leadership of Jennifer Johnson-Brown; Team A led by Robin Portis, co-chair of the walk, which raised $6,003; Memories of Mae, led by Padgett to generate $4,231; and Team Phil, (captain of Vickie Jordan), $3,170.

“All of the teams in our walk have done an amazing job not only raising funds, but also raising awareness,” Badgett said.

“A lot of people fundraise on Facebook to raise money for their teams – it makes it easier to get involved and it’s a big boost in dollar donations.”

More than walking

As with any campaign of this type, it takes more than just an event such as a march, but it is also necessary to present the issue to the public in a variety of ways.

This was true in 2021 for local Alzheimer’s efforts, which also included a Paint the Town Purple campaign during the summer. “Purple is the official color of Alzheimer’s disease,” Padgett explained.

Stores in downtown Mount Airy displayed purple-decorated storefronts as part of an awareness contest, along with some merchants launching fundraisers.

First place went to F. Rees, second to The Spotted Moon, third to Fabric Menagerie and fourth to Mayberry Primitives.

“Even though they weren’t on Main Street, Dr. John Gravitte’s office did a phenomenal display to raise awareness, had a team in the march, and was also a sponsor (of this event),” Padgett noted.

RidgCrest additionally offers an illuminated Christmas exhibit each year as a fundraiser.

“The beauty of its lights sends a message of hope to anyone associated with Alzheimer’s disease, whether a patient, caregiver, family member or defender,” Padgett said.

“We are so grateful that they have chosen to do this every year.”

Meanwhile, local defenders also had floats in the 4th of July and Christmas parades in downtown Mount Airy.

Drug breakthrough

The money raised helps the care, support and research programs of the Alzheimer’s Association.

This includes a variety of services for people with the disease and their families, including its 24/7 helpline at https://www.alz.org/help -support/i-have-alz/programs-support#helpline, educational programs, support groups and more.

On the research side, Padgett said definite progress has come in 2021 in the form of a new drug that hit the market in June. The United States Food and Drug Administration has granted accelerated approval to Aduhelm (aducanumab) for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

Padgett said it was the first drug available to slow its progression.

“I think it was a good result of all those years of research,” she said, proof that financial support makes a difference. “I think that was the highlight of the year.”

In May, Padgett also addressed members of Congress, via videoconference, to push for federal legislation to advance research and improve treatment and support services for people living with the disease. Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.

She is encouraged by so many facets of this community coming together to fight a terrible disease that has affected everyone to some degree through family members or friends.

This includes a growing number of sponsors: Behavioral Services, Surry Communications, Carolina West, Surry Insurance, Altec, Carport Central, First Presbyterian Church of Mount Airy, Home Place, Northern Regional Hospital, Hugh Chatham Hospital, Kindred at Home, Cardinal CT, JG Coram Construction, Dr John Gravitte, Hayco Construction, Nester Hosiery, Rogers Realty, SouthData, Surry-Yadkin Electric Membership Corp. and Wayne Farms.

“We are grateful to our community for all of their support,” Padgett summed up as she closed 2021, which she says has been a positive time both locally and for the Alzheimer’s Association as a whole.

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