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Alzheimer's Association executives to be honored

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Jane Marks has seen firsthand the power of hope in the face of crippling odds.

Since becoming executive director of the West Virginia chapter of the Alzheimer's Association in 2001, Marks has seen relatives -- including her mother -- suffer from Alzheimer's disease, a form of dementia that adversely affects memory, thought and behavior.

"Every single one of us, if we're not already touched by this disease, is going to be," Marks said. "One of the reasons I'm so passionate about this is that I feel like we're still not paying enough attention. This disease is extraordinarily difficult; we have extraordinary numbers suffering from it, and yet we're not anywhere near where we need to be to combat it or to cure it."

Marks and Nancy Cipoletti, the state Alzheimer's Association's former executive director, will be honored with the 2013 Rockefeller Award on Thursday during the annual Thanks for the Memories Luncheon held at the Charleston Marriott Town Center.

The award, named in honor of its first recipient, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., is given each year by the state chapter of the Alzheimer's Association to two people who have demonstrated outstanding support and leadership in combating Alzheimer's disease in West Virginia, according to Laurel Kirksey, director of constituent relations for the chapter.

"Each year we give this award away we're celebrating the people who truly work for the Alzheimer's cause," Kirksey said. "It is really about raising community awareness about Alzheimer's, because there's still more work to be done."

With more than 70 million Baby Boomers across the U.S., many of whom are entering their 60s and 70s, Cipoletti said the potential impact of Alzheimer's is greater than ever before.

"We're getting to a point where Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia are more of an issue, and if we don't do something about it, there will be an avalanche of Alzheimer's, and I don't think we're equipped to deal with that," she said.

Alzheimer's affects more than 48,000 people across West Virginia and is the state's fifth-leading cause of death. Cipoletti, who oversaw the creation of pilot respite programs that were successfully established statewide in 2006 and who took part in the state's chapter merger before her retirement, said the success the state chapter has experienced is the result of a community effort.

"It took a lot of people," she said. "No one accomplishes anything alone. There were so many people along the way who helped me, and who helped people suffering from Alzheimer's and their caregivers, and I am forever grateful."

Prior to 2001, the Alzheimer's Association in West Virginia existed as three separate chapters in Charleston, Morgantown and Parkersburg. Cipoletti, who now directs Alzheimer's programs for the West Virginia Bureau of Senior Services, began as the Charleston region's executive director in 1990 before retiring in 2001. Marks will retire this year and plans to continue her work in outreach and public education surrounding Alzheimer's.

Thursday's luncheon will begin at 11:45 a.m. and will include lunch, a video address from Rockefeller and a video slideshow of patients and family members impacted by the chapter. This year the chapter will also present the Walk to End Alzheimer's Volunteer Award in recognition of outstanding volunteer service to the association's annual walks held statewide. The award will be posthumously given to longtime volunteer Sylvia Watkins, who died in January.

Tickets to the luncheon are $75, and tables also may be sponsored. Funds from the luncheon directly support the association's 24/7 education and support help line, family care consultations, support groups and outreach efforts.

For more information or to purchase a ticket, visit www.alz.org/wv.

Reach Lydia Nuzum at lydia.nuzum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5100.


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