A REASON TO HOPE - Gala marks spring's entrance for advocate

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Spring made its official entrance March 20. I don't know about you, but I am just beginning to smell and feel the signs of spring.

Trees are budding forth with new growth, bulbs that had been dormant are pushing up fresh flowers and colors are beginning to abound all around us. The neighbors are cutting their lawns and the air is filled with freshness.

The Alzheimer's Association Gala has become a part in my life that represents spring. This year's gala was held April 9 at the Davenport Hotel in Spokane.

More than 300 people attended, a growth in attendance, from many of the 26 counties that are served by the Alzheimer's Association-Inland Northwest Chapter. It was exciting to gather together to honor and remember loved ones who have experienced a journey with Alzheimer's disease and other related dementias.

This year was special, not only with the presentation of the colors by returnees from various wars, but the board president, Pat Johnson, led attendees in their own candlelight ceremony.

I would like to express my gratitude to the local wineries that participated with contributions to the silent & live auction: Walla Walla Wine Works, Three Rivers, Foundry Vineyards, Forgeron Cellars, Reininger Winery, Seven Hills Winery and Leonetti Cellar; the local jewelers for their contributions, along with Willow, Bright's, Klicker's, Book & Game, and the several individuals who provided auction items.

The 10th annual Nancy Rockwell Gala provided new and additional growth, not only by giving more than $18,000 to research, but by the opportunity for continued education throughout the Inland Northwest Chapter.

My heart's desire is to have growth in local participation for next year's gala.

Walla Walla has been fortunate to receive benefits, as have many counties. On a personal note it puts a spring in my step to see local participation in an event that honored my husband and several other family members from the Valley along with many others.

Some of you might be saying, "well I didn't know..." and I can certainly appreciate and understand that. I went years without knowing all the services that are available for families facing Alzheimer's and other related dementia. Fortunately, I have the opportunity to bring that awareness to you through these articles, and the opportunity to contact the Alzheimer's Association-Inland Northwest Chapter for educational materials.

Heads-up: You may contact Angie Spleiss to participate in the Memory Walks that are available throughout the chapter. The exciting thing is that a team can be one individual or a family. There are going to be four walks throughout the chapter, including the Palouse and Coeur d'Alene; an opportunity to explore and visit beyond the Walla Walla Valley, while participating in one of the Memory Walks. Contact Angie at 509-473-3390 or angie.spleiss@alz.org for further information.

Spring provided another tremendous educational opportunity: I attended the Alzheimer's Association -- Western & Central Washington State Chapter's 25th annual Alzheimer's Regional Conference, "Moments in Mind," in Seattle. The keynote speaker was Gary Small, author, professor and director of the UCLA Center on Aging. You might have seen him on "The Today Show," "Good Morning America" or CNN, as he is highly respected and a wealth of knowledge.

His presentation revealed the evolution of the brain caused by the constant presence of technology in our lives. His research has proven "that technology has altered our brains." This was paired with his knowledge about Alzheimer's and other related dementias. For those who would like to check out his book, "The Memory Bible," please feel free to contact the Southeastern Washington office, or check the local library.

I attended other classes and gathered information from Dr. Murray Raskind, who is an accomplished researcher the Alzheimer's Association-Inland Northwest Chapter brought to Walla Walla in 2009. His topic was Relations Between Stress and Alzheimer's Disease. If you are reading this and have a loved one dealing with difficult behaviors and Alzheimer's disease Raskind is looking for study participants.

Education continues to abound; both in receiving and in giving. Please contact me for further information on any of the topics in today's article and to receive resource information for the local chapter. Remember you are not alone on your journey.

A Reason to Hope appears the last Wednesday of each month. Debbi Pierce, Southeastern Washington Association-Inland Northwest Chapter, can be reached at debbi.pierce@alz.org or 509-713-3390.

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