A March of Purple Elephants: Save the Memories Alliance Fundraiser
By Nick Muscavage
April 1, 2015
Matt Leger could be seen at the front of the 250 person pack, leading the crowd as they marched parts of the three-and-a-half mile Purple Path which loops the outskirts of the University at Albany campus. The walk took place Sunday, March 29 to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s, a debilitating condition that affects memory and other important mental functions in the brain.
It is a disease that Leger is all too familiar with.
A sophomore at UAlbany, Leger explained that he started the club Save the Memories Alliance due to his own family’s history with the disease.
“Alzheimer’s runs on both sides of my family. My Pepere [grandfather] on my father’s side suffers from it, my mom’s grandmother died from it, and it skips a generation so my mom is next in line, so I just wanted to raise funds,” Leger said.
Leger is the founder of Save the Memories Alliance, which he started when he was a student at Fitchburg High School in Fitchburg, Mass. He decided to bring the club to college when he came to UAlbany, and has been serving as its president since its initiation at the college in the spring of 2014.
Since the club’s inception, Leger has estimated that it has successfully raised $8,000, including the approximated funds raised from Sunday’s march, through sales of T-shirts and bracelets as well as donations. The T-shirts had a purple elephant printed on the chest, the symbol for Save the Memories Alliance due to the legend that elephants have a perfect memory.
“I’ve always been very proud of him since day one, just getting everybody motivated and involved. He’s always had a passion of helping people,” said Sandy Leger, Matt Leger’s mother. Both of Leger’s parents were present at the walk.
The funds from Sunday’s walk will be split evenly, explained Leger, with one half going towards Alzheimer’s Foundation of America for caretaking and research. Leger said that he’d rather see the money go more towards caretaking since, “caretaking is half the battle. Also because half the time money for research gets dumped out of the window because of failed drugs.” The other half of the raised funds will go towards a foundation for JP Honsinger, a child with early onset Alzheimer’s.
JP Honsinger is the 11-year-old who was signed to UAlbany’s men basketball team this year, traveling and attending most of the games with the team. He was diagnosed with Niemann-Pick disease Type C, or NPC, in September of 2013.
NPC is a metabolic disorder and is also known as childhood Alzheimer’s. It is extremely rare and, according to Leger, only 500 people are diagnosed with the condition, 300 of which live in the United States.
The website itulycare.com explained that symptoms of NPC typically include deterioration of memory and balance, lung and liver failure, and development of seizures. It went on to say that diagnosed children rarely live on into adulthood. It advertised a fundraising dinner event that is set to take place on May 1, 2015 for Honsinger.
During the walk, members of the crowd held signs covered with facts about the disease: five million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, Alzheimer’s kills more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined, every 60 seconds someone in the United States develops the disease, and two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women.
Leger expressed concern over the recent treatment of Alzheimer’s in the medical field, especially those addressed in the recently released report by the Alzheimer’s Association.
“The report found just 45 percent of Medicare patients who’d been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s said they were informed of the diagnosis by their doctor. By contrast, more than 90 percent of Medicare patients with cancer said they were told by their doctor,” said Jon Hamilton in an NPR segment.
It continued, “To make sure that Alzheimer’s patients hadn’t simply forgotten what a doctor said, the group also looked at Medicare survey responses from family members and other caregivers. The result wasn’t much better: Just 53 percent said a doctor told them of the patient’s diagnosis.”
Leger said, “It’s pretty messed up. There seems to be a lot of awareness, not education. It’s events like this that can change that.”