by Lindsey Beach
One of the first things I noticed after being warmly welcomed into the home of Siegfried and Elvira Kuchta was a photograph on their fireplace mantel. As I spoke to Siegfried and Elvira, I learned that the photograph was of Elvira’s parents and that it serves as a daily reminder of why they have worked so tirelessly over the last several years raising funds to help support Alzheimer’s research. Siegfried and Elvira shared how both of Elvira’s parents were affected by dementia and how the process of watching the disease progress and experiencing the challenges of caregiving spurred them to become involved personally with the campaign to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
The majority of the Kuchtas’ fundraising has happened in the context of their local Eagles chapter, an organization committed to community involvement and helping people with chronic illnesses. At a national Eagles conference, Siegfried learned about the organization’s efforts in raising funds for Alzheimer’s research. Due to their past experience with the disease, Siegfried and Elvira decided to host an Oktoberfest dinner and dance, where they cooked and served authentic German food to raise over $1,000 for the Alzheimer’s fund. Elvira also began to sell teddy bears to other Eagles members and friends. She sold over two hundred bears, with the profits also contributing to the fund. Meanwhile, the Kuchtas donated the tips and profits from weekly meals they cooked and served at the Eagle’s Monday bingo nights.
Their fundraising was very successful, and after some time the Kuchtas had raised over $2,500. With the help of other Eagles members, their fundraising efforts were matched by the national organization, resulting in $5,000 going to continued Alzheimer’s research efforts. At the fall Eagles conference in Long Beach, Washington, this money was presented as a grant to ADRC fellow and neurologist Dr. Cindy Mayer, who will use the funds to further her research in the use of neuroimaging, or brain scans, to improve our understanding of dementia.
One of the key elements to ongoing and productive research is the training and equipping of the next generation of investigators in their work. The funds raised by the Kutchas and donated through the Eagle grants serve this very specific need within the ADRC’s research program. These grants have enabled ADRC junior researchers to purchase neuroimaging software and educational materials; they have also served as start-up funds to begin new research projects. The continued, ongoing support of the Eagles organization and committed volunteers, like Elvira and Siegfried, truly make a difference. Elvira and Siegfried have plans to visit Elvira’s family in Austria and to enjoy the German countryside, but they're also excited to continue raising funds to help find more effective treatments and a prevention for Alzheimer’s disease.