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A Personal Quest for Alzheimer’s Awareness

 
Rider Relief Fund volunteer Bonnie Farmer Hay talks about the importance of Alzheimer’s Awareness for  this weekend’s Dakota Community Bank & Trust BlueDEF Velocity Tour event in Bismarck, North Dakota.

When I started trying to incorporate Alzheimer’s with the PBR, my goal was to have a “purple night.” Less than a year later, and it’s actually happening this Saturday in Bismarck and I’m beyond excited!

Alzheimer’s — I didn’t know much about the word, much less the severity of the disease, until my daddy was diagnosed in 1996 at 48 years old.

I eventually became involved the Alzheimer’s Association in 2004, one year after I lost my grandmother to Alzheimer’s.

I started volunteering with the Rider Relief Fund in July 2014 and had the opportunity to meet some of the PBR riders, bull fighters and Flint Rasmussen.  I ordered some shirts for Alzheimer’s Awareness through the company SAYiWONT and started asking if they would want to wear them to help spread the word. I’ve had so much success with our shirts between my family, friends and the PBR that I’ve ordered 321 shirts, with some of the proceeds going to research.

Jonathon Sumner of Buckin’ Rank Bull Flanks offered to make some purple flanks and was willing to donate 20 percent of each order back to research for a cure. And, of course, I was thrilled! I started posting pictures of the flanks on social media and brought them to the PBR’s Iron Cowboy in February. I sold our first set in the PBR to Chad Berger and he used them that night. Dallas Schott of Broken Arrow S Ranch bought a set as well and now Ron Brugh of War Pony is on board.

I’ve had so much support from everyone! The Lord has really blessed us and opened so many doors. This disease is affecting more people every day. I can’t imagine watching another family member go through this and I can’t imagine my children watching me slowly leave them. To know that I could possibly carry this gene makes me fight harder!

I’ve had six family members diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and my dad is the last survivor. He still rides his horses, drives and sings in our band at Cowboy Church. He is my hero because he fights and has faith that this disease will not take over his mind. Every day he quotes the scripture, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7).

His mother was also diagnosed and passed away only eight years later. Watching her slowly leave us mentally and physically was the worst thing in my life. My sweet memories of our times together growing up, she didn’t remember them anymore. My sister started with a stutter a year ago, and has had undergone many tests, trying to figure out the problem. We are praying it isn’t associated with this horrible disease, she’s only 43.

More than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most common form of dementia accounting for 60-80 percent of all cases. That includes 11 percent of those 65 and older. The disease impacts more than 15 million family members, friends and caregivers.

I not only fight for my family, but I fight for families everywhere. People usually don’t realize how bad it is until they are face to face with someone they love fading away. I fight for a cure and I encourage everyone to take the purple pledge to help show awareness!

We can all end Alzheimer’s (#endalz) together! Thank you so much to everyone that has supported me through this journey! I am extremely blessed, and thank you all those that share the fight in ending Alzheimer’s.

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