Katie Hood knows firsthand the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s disease. Two of her grandparents died from the disease, and she watched how difficult the situation was, not only for them, but also for her mother as their primary caregiver. When pursuing a career in the nonprofit world, the Alzheimer’s Association of Florida, Gulf Coast Chapter was at the top of her list.
Now the director of development for the organization, she’s grateful for the opportunity to help make a difference in the lives of those currently affected by the disease.
“I saw how stressful it was and how much of a burden it was for my family,” she says. “So I’m so glad I got to be on board here. It’s a cruel disease, and it’s something we all need to pay more attention to.”
Although there is no cure for the disease, the organization works to provide care and treatment to patients as well as provide education and support for their families and caregivers.
“Education is very important, and so is support for caregivers,” says Hood. “This disease doesn’t stay in one spot — it can be all over the map — so it can be very challenging and daunting for the caregiver. A lot of times, they’re extremely stressed, and we’re here 24 hours a day through our hotline.”
In addition to providing education and support, the organization hosts fundraising events to benefit research to find a cure or treatment for the disease. Its annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s, which takes place Oct. 11, in Sarasota, is its largest fundraiser, and it requires more than 50 volunteers in each of the 10 walks within the 17-county Gulf Coast chapter.
With only 25 staff members in the chapter handling more than 500,000 Alzheimer’s cases, Hood says volunteers are invaluable in carrying out the organization’s mission.
“There are so many ways for people to get involved if they want to help,” she says. “We need to bring this disease to the forefront and let people know they shouldn’t be afraid to talk about it. If you don’t already know someone affected by it, chances are, you will. It’s something that will be a big factor in our future.”
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