April 24, 2012
At a star-studded National Alzheimer's Dinner attended by celebrities, prominent politicians and Alzheimer's advocates in Washington, D.C., the Alzheimer's Association presented University of Tennessee Head Coach Emeritus Pat Summitt and her son, Tyler Summitt, with the Alzheimer's Association Sargent and Eunice Shriver Profiles in Dignity Award.
A leader in the Alzheimer's movement and the former First Lady of California, Maria Shriver, whose father Sargent Shriver passed away from Alzheimer's, presented the award, which recognizes an individual, organization or company whose actions have promoted greater understanding of Alzheimer's disease and its effects on diagnosed individuals, families and caregivers.
Summitt, the "winningest" coach in NCAA basketball history, publicaly shared her diagnosis of younger-onset Alzheimer's disease last August at the age of 59. She and her son Tyler created The Pat Summitt Foundation Fund to provide grants to nonprofits like the Alzheimer's Association that raise awareness of the disease, support families and advance research.
"Coach, you've said that champions don't shy away and you have a championship team right here. We've needed a coach for a really long time. Tomorrow this team will go grab the funding they need. They will grab the attention this cause deserves. And we will line up to be coached by you," Shriver said.
Summitt took to the stage with Tyler to receive the award. "I want thank the Alzheimer's Association for honoring Tyler and myself. This award is very, very special," Summitt said. "I have to admit when I first received a diagnosis last May, it threw me for a loop. I just didn't know what to think and what to do. Finally Tyler and I came to a decision to fight and to fight publicly."
"My mother teaches me every day that victories are a result of hard work, and that the team always comes before yourself," Tyler added. "We're so happy to be on this team."
In closing, Summitt rallied the crowd. "By working as a team, we can make a difference. We can make a difference in the lives of people who are living with the disease and the millions of people who are caring for them. Keep fighting, keep caring, and together we will win."
Hosted by Meredith Vieira, special correspondent for NBC News, whose brother is living with Alzheimer's, the National Alzheimer's Dinner brought together influential and respected political, business and entertainment leaders, as well as the broader Alzheimer's advocacy community, to inspire others to join the growing movement to end the disease.
The Alzheimer's Association presented a number of significant awards during the event, including the Alzheimer's Association Humanitarian Award, annually given to public officials who have made significant policy contributions to advance research and enhance care and support for people with Alzheimer's.
This year's award was presented to Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), for her continuing efforts to help produce a strong National Alzheimer's Plan and her work to introduce the Health Outcomes, Planning and Education (HOPE) for Alzheimer's Act in the Senate, and to Rep. Mike Burgess, M.D., (R-Texas), for his critical support of the passage of the National Alzheimer's Project Act and his position as an original co-sponsor of both the Alzheimer's Breakthrough Act and the HOPE for Alzheimer's Act in the House of Representatives.
Sen. Stabenow thanked the Alzheimer's Association for the award while calling attention to the greater fight to end this disease.
"I appreciate your recognition, but what it is more important to me is that in a few years we can say we made a huge difference in Alzheimer's research," she said. "That is the real reward for each and every one of us."
Similarly, Rep. Burgess acknowledged his award while keeping his focus on the larger picture.
"I appreciate being with you during this great evening. I see many of my colleagues in the audience and their efforts to pass the legislation mentioned this evening should not go unnoticed," said Burgess. "And I also want to recognize you, the activists of the Alzheimer's Association. It's hard to make a difference, but you've had some big wins recently with the National Alzheimer's Project Act."
Continuing the string of notable award recipients, Colonel Karl E. Friedl, Ph.D., director, Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC) at the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, received the Alzheimer's Association Ronald and Nancy Reagan Research Award for significant advancements in Alzheimer's research. Colonel Friedl was recognized for his leadership in supporting innovative, outcome-oriented research programs, including the Peer-Reviewed Alzheimer's Research Program, which has led to a better understanding of traumatic brain injury and its association to Alzheimer's disease.
"Thanks to the Alzheimer's Association for recognizing what my little team tries to do — to get money into the hands of clinicians in new and different ways," Colonel Friedl said. "This is the time for us to push the science forward. New breakthroughs are right around the corner."
The awards portion of the evening concluded with the meaningful Alzheimer's Association Advocate Award, presented annually to an outstanding Alzheimer's advocate who displays extraordinary leadership.
This year's recipient, Garrett Davis, an Alzheimer's Association Advocacy Ambassador from North Carolina, created a play entitled the "Forget Me Not Project," a tribute to his grandmother who died of Alzheimer's and the family members who cared for her. The play explores one family's experience with Alzheimer's and aims to raise awareness of the disease and the need for increased support, services and federal funding.
Davis recalled his poverty while growing up and his reaction to his grandmother's diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease, which was avoidance.
"I wanted to write a play to bring closure to my personal life. For the last two years I have traveled around the county, putting on my play," said Davis. "Being poor, I always wanted to make money, but now I just want to make a difference."
Host Vieira closed the evening with a call to action, rallying advocates and attendees to continue the fight against Alzheimer's.
"Be inspired by everything you have experienced here," she said. "This is the time to show your strength in numbers."
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