DECA’s Alzheimer’s event reminds teens that ‘Memories Matter’


Photo: Brad Steel

Fairmont DECA students join with residents of the Carlyle House to release purple balloons on the last day of the “Memories Matter” Week on Friday, Nov. 8, 2013. The special week was designed to promote awareness of Alzheimer’s.

Everyone in the crowd clutched the strings in their hands, eagerly waiting. The countdown began, and the Fairmont teens and senior adults shouted the numbers down from 10. When they reached 1, they opened their hands, and cheers and smiles erupted as the purple balloons drifted into the bright blue sky.

It was the perfect way to end the “Memories Matter” Week.

During the week of Nov. 4-8, 2013, Fairmont High School’s marketing students worked with the Carlyle House in Kettering as part of Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. The local teens in DECA, an international association of marketing students, organized several activities to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s. Events included a scavenger hunt for purple ribbons at the high school and a day where Fairmont students and staff were encouraged to wear purple, the official color of the Alzheimer’s Association.

Alzheimer’s is a disease that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Although Alzheimer’s usually occurs during middle to old age, it is not a normal part of the aging process. The Carlyle House is an assisted living community just a short distance from Fairmont High School. The facility’s staff pride themselves on creating a new approach to senior living and providing residents with a comfortable and luxurious environment. The Carlyle House specializes in Alzheimer’s care.

Bryan Nelson, executive director of the Carlyle House and a Fairmont graduate, has been around Alzheimer’s his entire life and has always wanted people to be more aware of the disease and the toll it takes on the victims and their families. Nelson says he’s happy with what Fairmont students accomplished during the week in November.

“There might be some little stuff I’ve seen done in schools, but not to the extent that we did with Fairmont,” he said. “It really excited me.”

Nelson said he doesn’t think people know as much about Alzheimer’s as they should. “I would say 99.9 percent of people don’t know how it affects people, what it truly means, and what kind of stress it puts on the family and staff,” he said. Because of the special week with Fairmont students, however, Nelson believes many local teens now have some experience with it. “I would say Fairmont students definitely have a better understanding.”

DECA invited some of the Carlyle House residents to have lunch with them at Fairmont on Tuesday, Nov. 5. The residents got to walk through the lunch lines and eat at some of the cafeteria tables together. Ruth Nelson, Carlyle House resident and grandmother of Bryan Nelson, said she really enjoyed getting to have lunch with the students. “I’ve been involved with them whenever they’ve been here,” she said.

On Friday, Nov. 8, some of the Fairmont DECA students wrapped up the special week by visiting the Carlyle House to play games with some of the residents. The residents and students appeared to have a great time interacting as they played cards and dominos and put together jigsaw puzzles.

Fairmont senior Taylor Hamilton is a member of DECA and works at the Carlyle House. She said she enjoys her work and spending time with the residents. “Being active with them is pretty much the most fun part,” Hamilton said. She added that she thinks the Carlyle House residents would enjoy seeing Fairmont students again. “They would definitely like it.”

The residents of the Carlyle House had nothing but good things to say about Fairmont and its students. Edie VanWinkle, 89, said she loved getting to spend some time with the students and appreciates their efforts to increase Alzheimer’s awareness. “It’s fun seeing them and playing with them,” she said. VanWinkle also said that she likes living at the Carlyle House and that the people there are very nice.

To conclude the game day on Friday, Nov. 8, every resident, staff member and Fairmont DECA student got a purple balloon and then let them all go and watched them float away.

Taylor Jones, a Fairmont DECA member, says she thinks the special “Memories Matter” Week helped make Fairmont students more aware of Alzheimer’s, a disease for which there is no cure. “I think a lot of people have taken it in now,” Jones said. “A lot of older people get it, but not a lot of people know about it.”

Fairmont DECA member Ross Partin said he thinks bringing in residents for lunch was helpful to promote awareness with the students. “I think we could have done more to promote awareness through the school community,” he said. “But I think people are at least a little more aware.”

Nelson says he’s very grateful for what Fairmont did during the week. “I want to thank Fairmont and the students,” he said. “Everybody’s been outstanding and I couldn’t ask for a better group to work with. Hopefully this isn’t going to be the last time.”

Nelson added that he’d like to see the “Memories Matter” Week an annual event to help promote awareness at Fairmont. “Believe it or not,” he said, “you guys are going to be the ones taking care of the majority of people with Alzheimer’s.”