SARASOTA, Fla. (May 14, 2015) – Mary Reda has walked three times in the annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s, but this fall’s upcoming march in Bradenton means so much more to the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee senior.
Reda says her father, the Rev. Paul Wesley Chaney, suffered from Alzheimer’s at the time of his death in late January. And now the College of Education student says she’s on a mission to educate friends and fellow students about Alzheimer’s and to raise money through T-shirt sales to fight the disease.
“I rarely find a friend or someone my age who really understands what Alzheimer’s is,” said Reda, 23, who designed her own T-shirt logo. “They’ll say, ‘you start forgetting,’ like that’s all it is.”
Reda witnessed the disease’s devastating effects the past few years as Chaney’s ebullient personality, which helped to win over congregants at First Presbyterian Church in Bonita Springs, gradually dampened.
She remembers as a child “how he could just make people smile,” and that her father “could talk to people for hours. He could talk to anybody,” she said.
But as the disease worsened he spoke less and began neglecting himself, not eating and often staring into space. He ended up in assisted living, too much for Reda, her sister and mother.
After he died Jan. 31 at age 82, Reda, who is studying to become a teacher, resolved to do more to fight the disease.
She had participated before in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, but decided that at the next march, set Oct. 3 at the Anthony T. Rossi Waterfront Park in downtown Bradenton, she would design a logo and devote funds from T-shirt sales to support the walk and its sponsor, the Alzheimer’s Association.
The largest event collectively to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research, the walks are staged yearly in more than 600 communities nationwide.
Reda designed the T-shirt’s logo: an elephant adorned in tribal and paisley patterns. It’s set against a “heather navy” background. Above reads the caption, “The heart remembers.” Below reads, “End Alzheimer’s.”
Despite the disease, Reda said, she still caught occasional glimpses of the man she remembered from her youth.
“While Alzheimer’s may steal memories away and alter personalities, it is the little glimpses of hope that get you through this disease,” she said. “Despite the hard hits that Alzheimer’s throws at you, I truly believe that the heart always remembers and that laughter can go a long way.”
So far, Reda has raised more than $600. T-shirts are $25. Tank tops are $20. The sale runs through May 26. Visit http://www.booster.com/theheartrememberscollection.