Memory Links Tournament for Alzheimer’s Support is June 5

By Jim Cato

Elaine Gantt works with her mother, Theresa, at Summit Place Friday, where the mother goes twice a week for fellowship with volunteers who help them with their interests in crafts and other mind developing skills. The elder Gantt taught for more than 40 years in the Beaufort County school system, retiring from Shell Point Elementary School, according to her daughter.

Golfers teeing up in the 6th Memory Links Tournament on June 5 will be taking a swing to help a growing number of people in Beaufort and across the country who face the reality of an intimate loved one changing into another person you don’t know at all.

The gift of respite time for caregivers that The Alzheimer Benefit Golf Tournament helps pay for has been a godsend for Elaine Gantt and Jackie Davidson – and their loved ones. These two women are representative of the 9.9 million caregivers (mostly family members) of more than 5.5 million people who have Alzheimer’s Disease. By this time tomorrow another 1,238 Americans will have AD – one every 70 seconds.

Rotarians in South Carolina, Georgia and North Carolina have supported The CART (Coins for Alzheimer’s Research Trust), a 10-year-old program dedicated to raising “seed”  money for cutting-edge, high-impact research in hopes of find a cure for or prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease. More than $3 million has been donated to CART Fund Inc., and research grants of about $2.5 million have been awarded researchers at leading universities and hospitals across the country.

Elaine Gantt lived and worked for Vocational Rehabilitative Services in the Washington, D.C. area for 30 years before retiring and returning to Beaufort to become the primary caretaker for her now 94-year-old mother. “I came into this situation as the super woman – thinking that do it all. I was remembering the intelligent, caring person I knew years ago.”

She soon became overwhelmed and depressed, “because it hit me that there wasn’t a pill to take for an instant cure.”

Gantt said, “Alzheimer’s is not a respecter of race, income, ability. It affects former pilots, doctors, nurses and common people. It also involves the whole family, and you need to involve the whole family,” so that they can help one another and advocate for each other and the person with AD.

Davidson feels overwhelmed at times. Being a caregiver can turn your life upside down, “because you have to watch them all the time and make sure that they don’t get into difficult situations. You have to be constantly focused on them. Sometimes they will get lost just going from room to room.”

The programs that Alzheimer’s Support Services of Greater Beaufort provides through donations from Rotary Club of the Lowcountry’s golf tournament and many other organizations and individuals throughout the county, enables families “to move forward and provide the care that we need, too,” Davidson said. “It enables us – me in particular – to relax. I enjoy horseback riding, and the Social Day program allows me to get out to the barn, relax while riding and return refreshed.

“It is very easy to get impatient with repetition (which a person with Alzheimer’s requires),” she said.

“The Social Day program allows our loved ones to experience a fuller life, and without Rotary’s support it would not happen,” Davidson said.

The Social Day program is offered on Mondays and Wednesdays at Port Royal United Methodist Church and on Fridays at Summit Place from 10 a.m. until 1:45 P.M.

Alzheimer’s Family Services also provides several other programs from caregivers, including support luncheons where they can discuss common problems and various solutions. For instance, Gantt said that when her Mother started going out the door in the middle of the night, she was able to find a solution because others already had experienced this. “A lot of valuable information is passed along,” she said. “I feel blessed that I am coming along at a time when these programs are here. I have talked to folks who went through this in the 1970s, and the support wasn’t there.”

Bill Shillito, CART Fund Inc. executive director, said this year Rotary “made commitments to our 13th, 14th and 15th grants.”

The 2010 top grant recipient is Dr. Paul Murphy (University of Kentucky), who will  receive a $250,000 grant .  “He is an expert in both Diabetes and Alzheimer’s Disease.  He will use his funds to determine why there is a link between diabetes and increased occurrence of AD.

Dr. Luigi Pugieli (University of Wisconsin-Madison) receives $150,000.  Pugieli has isolated four compounds that show potential to inhibit the formation of plaque.  He will usehis funds to determine if the potential shows direct correlation in AD designed mice.

Dr. Kurt Bruden (University of Pennsylvania) is awarded $50,000 grant.  This is our first time awarding a one year grant.  Dr. Bruden has screened 290,000 genes to isolate to a small number.  He will use mouse models to test his theory of reducing the occurrence of tau (tangles) in AD designed mice.

“The research is cutting edge.  Our researchers gladly share all of their findings and research with other scientist.  The collaboration has potential to accelerate the finding of a cause and a prevention for this dreaded disease,” Shillito said.

Bill Evans, incoming President of the Rotary Club of the Lowcountry, is proud of the contribution his club has made to Alzheimer’s research and local family services during the last five years. The Club has raised more than $6,000 for local efforts and has contributed in excess of $25,000 to research through the CART Fund of Rotary International.

“The club really comes together for this event and every member plays a role in its success,” Evans said. “We take great pride in the contribution we are making both locally and on a national basis to deal with this disease.”

The 6th Annual Memory Links Alzheimer Benefit Golf Tournament hosted by the Rotary Club of the Lowcountry will tee off at 9 a.m. on June 5 at the Ocean Creek Golf Course Fripp Island.

Cost of the tournament is $85 per person in advance, and the fee includes: golf, cart, beverages, prizes, goody bag and lunch immediately following the tournament. Tournament format is four-man captain’s choice. Contests include: Hole-in-one, longest driver, closest to the pin, putting contest before the tournament and team prizes.

Call: 843-846-0568 for more information about the tournament or to register.

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