Uniting to further Alzheimer's research

A host of well-known faces, united by advocacy for Alzheimer’s research, gathered at the National Building Museum on Wednesday night for the sixth annual National Alzheimer’s Gala.

Over drinks and lobster hors d'oeuvres at a VIP reception, the who’s-who in the Alzheimer’s research world convened with members of Congress, senators, actress Lea Thompson, first lady of California Maria Shriver, and former Cowboys wide receiver Terrell Owens.

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Owens had by far the longest line of people waiting to speak with him and get their photograph taken. 

Nicolas Sarkozy, the president of France, was honored for effectively increasing Alzheimer’s awareness. Much to the disappointment of the crowd, Sarkozy was unable to attend. The attendees were exceptionally sad that Carla Bruni, France’s first lady, was also unable to be on hand, which was made obvious by the whoops and catcalls at the mention of her name. French Ambassador Pierre Vimont accepted the award, promising to return to Paris and give it to Sarkozy himself.

Thompson spoke of her personal experience with Alzheimer’s disease in her own family — both her grandmothers and stepfather died of the disease. She teared up as she spoke of her work advocating for Alzheimer’s research for the past 14 years.

“It’s nice to have a group of people who understands,” she said. She also mentioned that these events are always emotional for her and sometimes after speaking about the disease, it feels as though she is in a Lifetime movie — which she has experience acting in — because it is so emotional.

Coach Frank Broyles, former athletic director for the University of Arkansas, and his wife, Gen, attended and promoted his Playbook for Alzheimer’s Caregivers.  It is a book of tips for those living with people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Broyles lost his first wife, Barbara, to Alzheimer’s disease and remarried in 2005.

“There’s no good substitution for preparation,” said Broyles.

After cocktails, the party moved from the gold-and-red-decorated reception area to the dining room to finish celebrating the research done by William E. Klunk, M.D., Ph.D, and Chester A. Mathis, Ph.D, from the University of Pittsburgh.

Later in the evening, Shriver presented Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and wife, Sharon, with the Shriver Profiles in Dignity Award. Rockefeller lost his mother to the disease. Shriver has been in town all week speaking out about her father, Sargent Shriver, who has Alzheimer’s disease, and on Wednesday testified before a Senate subcommittee.