For those with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers, any day can seem like the longest day of the year. Alzheimer’s is a brain disease that affects a person’s memory and impairs their ability to conduct daily tasks. Basic communication becomes difficult as they lose their ability to carry on a conversation.
The Longest Day is a team fundraising event sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Association to honor those with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. The event raises funds for research and increases the awareness of the disease. Held on the summer solstice, from sunrise to sunset, the event symbolizes the challenge faced by caregivers and those with the disease.
“To do the Longest Day, you do something from sunrise to sunset,” explains Bill Mitchell, Owner of Ride Safe Vermont, a motorcycle safety school in Burlington. “Participants should do something that they’re passionate about. We figured we could make it around the state in a day [on our motorcycles]”, he said.
Bill and his wife Jane Mitchell are leading Team Ride Safe on a 500 mile Vermont perimeter ride they are calling “The Brain Circuit” as part of this year’s event.
The team will start at 5:25 a.m. at Green Mountain Harley Davidson in Essex Junction and then head south on Route 7 stopping in Rutland at Central Vermont Motorcycles, in Bennington at Ronnie’s Cycles, in Brattleboro at Vintage Steele, in White River Junction at the Country Crossing Diner, and then in Wells River, Derby, East Berkshire and St Albans. The ride will end when they return home at 8:30 p.m.
“This is our first year running the route, so it’s a bit of shakedown year”, said Bill. He and Jane hope the event will become an annual event with riders starting the circuit in their hometowns, joining the circuit for the day and touring the state. Teams can ride at their own pace and choose to ride as much of the circuit as they want, with the goal of riding all day and raising $1,600 per team -- $100 for each hour of the day. The team could also ride as a relay.
Fundraising is an important part of fighting Alzheimer’s, which mostly affects people over 65. As the population ages, more people are affected each year. Thirteen thousand Vermonters currently have the disease and are supported by 30,000 unpaid Vermont caregivers. “It is projected that in 10 years, 17,000 Vermonters will have the disease,” said Jane Mitchell (Jane is Director of Development of the Vermont Alzheimer’s Association).
Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Symptoms develop slowly and worsen over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, accounting for 60%-80% of cases. Although it is most common in people over 65, people in their 40’s and 50’s also get the disease.
There is no known cure. Researchers are looking for ways to treat symptoms and to slow the progress of the disease, improving the quality of life for patients and their caregivers.
If you would like to support Team Ride Safe, you can donate through their fund raising page, found here. You can follow the team on their team Facebook page. If you would more information on starting your own team or riding the Brain Circuit, contact Bill for information by email at Bill@RideSafeVT.com.