It was the rally cry: #endalz.

Alzheimer’s Association Regional Director Jody Barker and 400 family members, caregivers, sponsors and friends had a Reason to Hope for the day there is a first ALZ survivor. That was the special theme of the annual purple fundraising luncheon April 2 at The Antlers.

As they work toward that day when they no longer have jobs, the regional Alzheimer’s Association (alz.org/co) is the no-charge support system for those in seven counties covering 13,000 square miles and for training 400 first responders. Statewide, 73,000 people have Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Sharing his family’s 10-year journey was Randy Rush, whose wife, Tami, was diagnosed at age 49. He was there because he “would like for Tami to be the first survivor, but it looks like that won’t happen.” She is in the final hospice stage, Stage 7, of Alzheimer’s.

When the diagnosis first came, they set out to experience life to the fullest: hot air ballooning, scuba diving, a cruise, spelunking and a romantic carriage ride in Kansas City in the snow. They spend every moment with 14 grandchildren.

It’s “heartache but a lot of joy,” he told teary guests, many of whom had photos of those with ALZ at their tables. And he encouraged families and caregivers to always take pictures and videos of their special people, to always remember.

“Fix Alzheimer’s now,” he encouraged luncheon guests. “Fix it now. There is hope. There is research.”

Then his stunner: If Alzheimer’s and dementia aren’t stopped, the cost in the U.S. by 2050 will be $1.1 trillion (“with a T”).

What was especially meaningful to understanding guests was that Randy never planned to be the event’s keynote speaker . But the night before, guest speaker Marty Reiswig‘s father died of Alzheimer’s. So Randy and his daughter, Wendy Fisher, came in his place.

Upcoming: Sept. 21, Walk to End Alzheimer’s, America the Beautiful Park, facebook.com/events/210873893185786

Photos: gazette.com/life/around-town

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