June 2016 Giving Back 1

Alzheimer’s Gala Celebrates Chapter’s Largest Research Gift

A colorful display of purple illuminated the Hurst Conference Center from gowns to bow ties as the community’s generosity overflowed at the Alzheimer’s Association – North Central Texas Chapter’s annual Memory Gala April 29 – along with an announcement of the chapter’s largest financial gift to date.

Meharvan “Sonny” Singh, PhD, the chapter’s board chair and dean of the graduate school of biomedical sciences for University of North Texas Health Science Center, announced to the audience of more than 450 attendees, that the chapter donated $500,000 to five new investigator research grants.

This is the largest financial donation gifted by the chapter, which will help fund Alzheimer’s researchers who have started their careers to advance innovations and support those dealing with the disease.

“I want to make sure these young researchers stay in the pipeline because after I retire, I want to make sure someone else continues the fight,” Singh said.

Two of the five research grants are located in Texas, including Ines Moreno-Gonzalez, PhD, who will be studying the risk of developing the disease after brain trauma, such as a concussion.

Gonzalez and her colleagues will be using an imaging technique called positron emission tomography (PET) to visualize brains that have experienced mild or severe traumatic brain injury.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease is the only illness among the top 10 causes of death in America that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed.

Currently 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, which kills more people than prostate and breast cancer combined.

The chapter’s goal for the gala was to offer an unforgettable experience as attendees were asked to support the various programs and services offered in North Central Texas, as well as research initiatives needed to end the disease.

Theresa Hocker, CEO for the Alzheimer’s Association – North Central Texas Chapter, said a great deal of work went into organizing and creating the 15th annual gala.

“It’s so important to be in front of people who are committed to helping with what we’re trying to achieve, which is funding research and being a local resource to those dealing with this disease,” she said.

Hocker said the chapter’s research gift was significant in the role of finding a cure for the disease.

“When you give funding to these researchers, you never know who will come up with the latest advancement,” she said. “That’s why it’s so important.”

At press time, more than $330,000 had been raised from the gala.

Chris Lokey, board member for the chapter, attended the event and has a personal tie with the disease – his wife died of Alzheimer’s.

Lokey said the staff members and volunteers at the local chapter helped guide him and his wife with the important, yet difficult decisions with the disease.

“We learned a lot from them (the North Central Texas Chapter) during my wife’s disease and I have to make sure this organization does well to help others like I was helped,” he said. “We want to keep young and excited people in this field, so funding these researchers is an important cause.”

The gala was co-chaired by Valerie Holloway Skinner and Athena Wiginton, and held a silent and live auction that included a private five-course dinner and entertainment with Fort Worth chef Lou Lambert, which auctioned for $15,000.

Pam Minick was the emcee for the evening, which included a Q&A with Sid O’Bryant, PhD, researcher for UNTHSC and informed the attendees about the most recent health facts of the disease.

Towards the end of the event, Singh spoke again about the importance of finding a cure and funding for new advancements for the disease, which is now considered an epidemic.

“We can’t stop now,” Singh said. “We must keep fighting.”

The Alzheimer’s Association – North Central Texas Chapter is affiliated with the national Alzheimer’s Association, headquartered in Chicago. Fort Worth serves as headquarters for the chapter, which has regional offices in Abilene, Waco and Wichita Falls.

The chapter is a nonprofit, donor-supported organization and the programs and services are made possible through contributions from individuals, corporations and foundations.

For more information on the chapter and/or to donate please visit: 
http://www.alz.org/northcentraltexas/alzheimers_disease_donate.asp or call 1-800-272-3900.

: From (Left to Right) DJ Birkeland, Bryan Birkeland, Jan Burrow, Athena Wiginton, and Michael Wiginton stand near the silent auction lobby before heading into the ballroom for the 15th annual Memory Gala.

: Dr. Meharvan Singh and his wife, Preeti, hold a prop sign during the Memory Gala to promote Alzheimer’s disease awareness.