A Perfect Time to Harness Passion for a Purpose

If you had told Charlotteans, Frank and Connie Reed, a year ago that they’d be nestled among a crowd in San Diego of the most passionate supporters of the Alzheimer’s Association, chances are they would not have believed you. And if you further told them that Frank would be standing up in front of hundreds from the national Alzheimer’s community sharing his family’s motivation for being involved, they probably would been even more suspect. But sometimes when passions align for the right people at the right time, they jump on the train at full steam ahead.

“We’ve had three significant relationships brought down by this terrible disease,” begin Connie and Frank Reed of Charlotte, North Carolina. One of their best friend’s mother passed away from Alzheimer’s disease at a relatively young age. Frank’s best friend in the US Marine Corps lost his wife to younger-onset Alzheimer’s. They added that not only were the plans for their friend and his wife pretty much destroyed, he also ended up bankrupt caring for her. And then there was the tie that hit closest to home when most recently Connie, herself, lost her father.

Don Schaet, Connie’s father, was born in Teaneck, New Jersey in August 1934. Soon thereafter, the family moved to the nearby town of Tenafly, where Don spent the remainder of his formative years. Graduating from high school, Don attended the University of Rochester (U of R) on a Navy ROTC Scholarship. Upon graduation, he was commissioned as an officer in the United States Marine Corps where he served 25 years, retiring as a Colonel. He received the Bronze Star with Combat V, the Meritorious Service Medal and numerous other medals and citations. Don’s life was characterized by service — to his family, his community and his country. Upon retirement from the Marine Corps in 1980, Don joined the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Foundation as executive vice president. His efforts were instrumental in the creation of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Don then returned to his Alma Mater and served as associate director of development for the Office of Alumni Relations. In 1985, Don was selected by Mothers Against Drunk Driving to serve as their executive director where he helped deliver assistance for victims of drunk driving and advocated for more stringent laws. Don then joined the staff of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, where he assisted in the design, site selection and fundraising to create the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.

Don took a year off to travel around the world. Along the way, he met Gail Teplin, a fellow traveler. They were married in December of 1987 and eventually settled in Atlanta, Georgia. Don joined Cure, an organization committed to funding research and patient support for childhood cancer. Finally, Don became a volunteer mentor and coach for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society through their Team in Training program. He participated in over 40 100-mile bicycle events to raise funds for research and patient support. As a lifelong athlete, Don captained his high school and collegiate soccer teams. He continued to play soccer into his late 40s and relished playing in the annual U of R Alumni Homecoming Soccer match. As an adult, Don excelled as an endurance athlete. He ran many marathons, including a 50-mile ultra-marathon. As a cyclist, Don was extremely proud of having ridden a century ride in all 50 states.

Based on his lifelong devotion to fitness, Don’s body had many more years on it physically; however, Alzheimer’s had other plans for him as he passed away from its complications at the age of 87  in March 2022. Connie admits that in the back of her mind she knew that her grandfather suffered from dementia and passed away at 95.  So while her dad and grandfather both lived a long time and had great lives, their respective deaths were relative to the disease. “Dad was so actively engaged in the community, but socially brought down to his knees by the horrors of Alzheimer’s,” share Connie and Frank. “He died having all the signs [of Alzheimer’s], and it became obvious to us that this was our cause to fight.”

Serendipitously, the Reeds were indirectly introduced to the Alzheimer’s Association last spring through their daughter, Ginny Northrup, an account executive for the catering company that provided the food for the Charlotte Memory Gala in 2022. Connie shares that through Ginny’s relationship with the organization as well as her ‘gentle nudging’, the idea of getting more involved with the local Chapter began to ruminate in her mind. “I thought about it [getting involved], because I have to process things. I wasn’t initially comfortable with assuming a leadership role, but I knew I needed to make a difference. It was just awful to watch Dad, who was just brilliant and could talk and read no longer be able to do those things.” 

It was this experience that provided the motivation for the Reeds, well known members of the Charlotte business community, to not only get involved in the mission of the Alzheimer’s Association, but to accept the role of co-chairs for the 2023 Charlotte Memory Gala taking place on May 20 at The Westin Charlotte.

The Reeds acknowledge that they were not that familiar with the Alzheimer’s Association, and did not use any of its services when Don was living with the disease. “Based on our involvement with the Association during the past seven months, we believe it is very important to heighten the awareness of the Association,” share Connie and Frank. “It is important for people to know that there is information to read and support groups available for those who are being impacted.” They add that educating the public on the seriousness of the disease, as well as how many people it affects, is critical. “I believe that most Americans now think that Alzheimer’s disease is the thing you get just before you die,” adds Frank. “You’re in your 80s, and it is a peaceful departure from Earth without any of the dread you would face if you were fully cognizant. That is just not true.”

Like so many others before they have experienced it firsthand, Connie adds that she did not initially realize that Alzheimer’s was something that could actually kill you, “…the aggressive nature of the disease and the actual damage it can do to you is something I did not understand.” 

While their outreach approaches are quite different from each other, the Reed’s co-chairing styles complement one another in preparation for the upcoming Memory Gala. Connie shares, “I know for me that I believe I need to earn my co-chair title. I’m sharing with my friends what I’ve said ‘yes,’ to and how Alzheimer’s disease has affected my family’s life personally.”  And now it is a family affair, the Reed’s daughters Ginny and Catie Lecompte have also joined the event committee and have been busy with procuring auction items, and inviting their respective networks to attend, and securing major sponsors to support this year’s event.

“We are competitive as a family,” chuckles Frank. “Of course we want to surpass this year’s [revenue] goal, but we’ve each agreed to get past that. We ultimately have a far bigger reaching  goal — we need to see more people getting involved.” Frank adds that it is important that more people better understand the disease and that more people with influence use that to broaden the swath of involvement in the Association at a community level. He notes, comparatively speaking, Alzheimer’s disease has a lot of work to do in the public health education sector compared to that of cancer.  “I was shocked when I learned that more Americans die annually from Alzheimer’s than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.”  As more diseases are being conquered and individuals’ life expectancies extending,  Alzheimer’s treatments to enhance the quality of life continue to grow in importance. “My approach is less emotional than Connie’s,” asserts Frank. “I share with organizational leaders the fact that I can guarantee them that their employees are somehow being impacted by Alzheimer’s, and that it is important that they get involved with our initiatives.”

The Reeds both agree that the fight against Alzheimer’s will not be effectively accomplished through wonderful Twitter feeds and beautiful emails. it is going to be accomplished by more and more people understanding the true nature of Alzheimer’s disease, and using their voices and networks to disseminate that message.

Join the Reeds and other influential community and business leaders and enjoy a wonderful event to celebrate the lives of loved ones impacted by dementia and raise funds to underwrite the Alzheimer’s Association’s support, education, advocacy and research initiatives. 

You will enjoy an elegant, black-tie optional evening at uptown’s The Westin Charlotte that features a welcome reception, seated dinner, powerful mission moments, auction, as well as, dancing and live entertainment provided by the Kingdaddy Band.

Saturday, May 20, 2023
6:00-11:00 p.m.
The Westin Charlotte

Visit CharlotteMemoryGala.org to reserve your tables (of eight guests) now for early bird rates, as they expire February 28! 

Forget Me Not Tables:
     SOLD OUT 

    $2,500 by 2/28/23

     $2,750 on/after 3/1/23


     $300 per person by 2/28/23

     $350 per person on/after 3/1/23

For more information on event sponsorship, tables and tickets, contact:
Sally Kay, Gala Director | sfkay@alz.org | (980) 498-7733

We invite you to join our Charlotte Memory Gala Facebook Group to stay informed on updates and plans for the event.

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