RIDGEFIELD, Conn. – When Ridgefield resident Scott Russell found out he had early onset dementia and Alzheimer’s, he decided to make the best of the situation and become an advocate for others with the disease.
“I was depressed at the diagnosis,” said Russell, who had been a white-collar executive when diagnosed in his late 50s. But he found a new calling since then, devoting his life to teaching others and spreading awareness about Alzheimer's as well as fundraising for research into its causes and treatments.
With his friend Darla Shaw of Ridgefield, a professor at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury, Russell started the Alzheimer’s Awareness Program to take that message across generations to young people. They work within the Common Core standards to teach students from elementary school through high school about dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
As part of this program, Russell has created what he dubs "Alzi Animals," stuffed animals that he has painted and accessorized that are sold by donation for a fundraiser.
"I want them for the children," Russell said. "It engages them and then everyone else."
In addition to the stuffed animals, Shaw has written a book about her friend "Silly Mr. Scott," which they also sell. Shaw was inspired to help her friend after helping her elderly mother, who had also had Alzheimer's, as her caretaker for many years.
As part of their fundraising efforts for the Connecticut chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, they will be hosting a Night of Music from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, June 14, at the Ridgefield Recreation Center at 195 Danbury Road, with all proceeds going to benefit Alzheimer’s research.
On Sunday, June 15, the program will be holding a Walk for Alzheimer’s and KidsFest at the Rec Center to raise money for the Connecticut chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.
The walk will have three start times: 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and noon, with groups taking the 1-mile loop around the track. The cost to participate in the walk is $15 per person or $50 per family or group.
The event is sponsored by Ridgefield Visiting Nurse Association and students at East Ridge Middle School.
The Kids Fest will include entertainment and a bake sale with Scott's Alzi Animals and "Silly Mr. Scott" books for sale.
For more information on the walk or to register, visit their website.