Ron and Cherie Wilson of Durham were married on St. Patrick’s Day in 1986, and from that day on they were inseparable. Ron was an athlete in his younger days, and he loved sports, especially basketball, lacrosse and hockey. The two spent many hours together watching and attending games. Ron was so involved he became a certified lacrosse official, working numerous college games, and playing an important role in establishing lacrosse as an official high school sport in North Carolina. In fact, he was elected to the North Carolina U.S.A. Lacrosse Hall of Fame for his efforts.
But as the years passed, their story took a heartbreaking turn. Cherie began to notice that Ron didn’t seem to be himself, and eventually he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.
“He did well for six years,” Cherie says. “But one day, we were watching a hockey game together on TV, and Ron turned to me and said ‘what’s that?,’ gesturing toward the television. That’s when I knew.”
Cherie describes the pain, the helplessness and the isolation of seeing her beloved husband’s decline. “He slowly lost himself. It was awful, the worst experience of my life,” she says.
Fortunately, Cherie was able to find support and friendship through the Dementia Alliance of North Carolina. Even after Ron needed an outside caregiver, Cherie attended monthly support group meetings at the Alliance office. She became close friends with other families affected by dementia and the office staff.
“It was so good for all of us,” she says. “We’re still good friends.”
When Ron passed away in January, several members of the office staff attended his memorial service. “It blew me away,” Cherie says. “They are very special people. They’ve always been there, and they’ll do whatever it takes to help.”
Ron and Cherie’s story is not unusual. The Dementia Alliance of North Carolina provides resources and support to caregivers and local research efforts to fight all forms of dementia. The Alliance offers help, information and encouragement to those facing the unrelenting emotional and physical demands of caring for a loved one with dementia.
There are multiple forms of dementia — it is much more than just Alzheimer’s. More than 170,000 people in North Carolina are affected by these diseases, and the number is growing. Last year, the Alliance sustained over 130 support groups all across the state, funded 3,000 hours of much-needed downtime for caregivers, conducted 100 education programs in 35 counties for caregivers and the general public, provided more than 4,000 families with free resources and counseling, and gave $200,000 in funding to university researchers at Duke and East Carolina. Read more in our Impact Report
With your help, we can do even more in the fight against this cruel enemy. Just a $20 donation to the Dementia Alliance of North Carolina provides an hour of precious respite time for a family caregiver. A gift of $100 provides a family with a one-hour consultation providing personalized counseling, resources and referral information. A larger gift of $500 provides support group facilitators with the training and resources to launch their own support group, and $1,000 funds one four-hour workshop that gives caregivers the tools and skills to give more expert care to their loved ones. And we hope to add more services in the future.
Your one-time gift can bring much-needed help to more people like Ron and Cherie Wilson. And if you can become a sustaining supporter with an ongoing monthly gift, it will do even more to help us meet the growing needs of our state. The Alliance is the only dementia-related organization in North Carolina where 100% of the funds raised stay within the state.
Dementia is relentless. Your help is vital to our mission of providing dignity and compassion for those with the disease, engagement and connection for their caregivers, and empowerment through knowledge and support for all.