Local woman leads the fight against Alzheimer’s

  • Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Donna Rosa’s father – “Daddy” as he is affectionately known to her – passed away almost five years ago from Alzheimer’s disease. Since his passing, Donna has made a commitment to helping find a cure for Alzheimer’s through engaging herself in the Alzheimer’s Association South Carolina Chapter. Every year, she is particularly involved with the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, the largest event for raising Alzheimer’s awareness and funds in the world. In 2013, Donna led Charleston and the state with her efforts and this year will be no different.

Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, killing more than breast and prostate cancer combined. Every 67 seconds, someone develops Alzheimer’s and two-thirds of the five million Americans with Alzheimer’s disease are women. Donna knows these facts and she’s doing everything she can to help raise awareness.

You can say Donna is a strong woman, but that would be the understatement of the year. To lose a parent to Alzheimer’s is difficult. The degenerative disease robs the mind of its memories and gets progressively worse as time goes on. It is the only disease in the top 10 that cannot be cured, prevented, or even slowed.

Donna went through this with her father nearly five years ago. Now, she’s going through it with her mother-in-law. Her mother-in-law lives in Jacksonville, Florida at Arbor Terrace, an assisted-living facility specializing in the care of those with Alzheimer’s. This is the first time her husband’s family has dealt with the disease and she knows the difficulties that lie ahead.

But this isn’t her first time dealing with hardships in her family. Before she lost her father, she lost her mother to cancer, lost her sister while she was in her 30s, and has fought cancer in her own body five times. Strong doesn’t quite cut it.

Since losing Daddy, Donna made a commitment to help find a cure. “Daddy taught me the importance of helping others and to always look at the bright side of every situation. Every day is a blessing! I know what happened with Daddy will help other families get through their own struggles.”

It has also given her a platform to share her story. “I tell everyone I come in contact with what I do to help raise awareness. You never know who you’re going to approach that has been affected.”

She’s not afraid to tell her story because she knows that sharing will show others that they’re not alone. Some people ask how they can help; others have silently handed her four-figure checks without saying a word.

Donna knows what the disease can do to families and she wants to help ease that pain. Since 2009, Donna has been involved with the Walk to End Alzheimer’s and has raised funds every year. In 2012, “Daddy’s Darlings” raised $6,073 and became the No. 1 Charleston Walk Team. 2013 was Donna and the team’s best year yet, yielding $12,295 in personal fundraising efforts and $16,295 in team fundraising efforts.

Daddy’s Darlings was named the No. 1 Walk Team in South Carolina for funds raised out of 690 teams. On top of that, she personally made the nation’s top 100 list of individual fundraisers last year. As the No. 64 individual fundraiser in the country, Donna was also No. 1 in the state for her individual efforts.

Donna is filled with determination and knows that “Daddy getting Alzheimer’s has helped me and my family better understand my mother-in-law’s struggles. Everything happens for a reason and I don’t want to waste the opportunity I have to share the message that we need more advocates.” Donna has already signed up for the walk this year being held on September 20 and has a goal of $20,000 in mind.

To join Donna’s team, get involved or just find out more about Alzheimer’s disease, go to www.alz.org/sc or contact the local office. Proceeds from the walk go directly to the Alzheimer’s Association, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit entity. It provides and enhances programs focusing on education and support, advances critical research studies associated with the disease, and speaks up for the needs and rights of those facing Alzheimer’s through public policy initiatives.

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