Student advocates for Alzheimer’s promote funding in Hartford


Students involved in supporting Alzheimer’s legislation include from left, Rachel Wesolowski, William Hongach, Jamie Bertilson (in back), Delany Walsh, and Amy Robinson.

Written by Dr. Darla Shaw

Press Correspondent

With the exponential cost of care for Alzheimer’s patients, and the rise in early onset cases, the Annual Legislator’s Breakfast for Alzheimer’s Funding was an important event in April. Fortunate enough to be attending and directly speaking to legislative members, were three Ridgefield students.

Attending from East Ridge Middle School, along with their English teacher,  Gilda Meier, and parents were Delany Walsh and William Hongach III. Also  attending were three of Dr. Darla Shaw’s education students from Western Connecticut State University, including Ms. Jaime Bertilson from Ridgefield.

To be able to take part in this important event, students had to interview a caregiver for an Alzheimer’s patient and write a letter to a local representative. Given below are excerpts from very emotional essays by two students.

Delany Walsh interviewed her Aunt Susan who is caring for her mother. This women is also caring for her own school age children and has no time for herself. After detailing  the challenges facing a caregiver, Delany said, “It is such hard work to be a caregiver because of all the responsibilities and, sometimes, lack of cooperation on the part of the one being cared for at home.”

A family member caring for his wife, was the focus of the interview by William Hongach. “This interview with Raymond educated me enormously. I can now see that caregivers need a break.  They devote their entire life to caregiving. They can not really live a life of their own. Funding needs to be restored.”

The WCSU student Jamie Bertilson said after the legislative breakfast, “The facts and figures regarding  the ever increasing  number of people with Alzheimer’s and the rising costs are staggering. It is also the only major disease today without any real treatment or possible cure.”

Being the first group of young people ever invited to take part in an Alzheimer’s Legislative Breakfast, Laurie Julian, Director of Public Policy for Alzheimer’s added,  “Our Connecticut Alzheimer’s Chapter is so fortune to be armed with young people who can effectively speak about the compassion they possess for caregivers  and the need for reinstating funding.”

“Having the youth presence is a win-win situation, not only were the students highly “effective lobbyists,” they benefited from witnessing first-hand the legislative process. Since legislators often equate Alzheimer’s disease as an older adult’s issue, these messengers demonstrated the wide swath of the disease.”

Also inspired by the work of the students, teacher, Gilda Meier, explained, “It was a real eye opener for my students to travel to Hartford and actually take part in the legislative process. These students saw how they can really make a difference to help win a battle at the bill level, as well as battle for a cure.”

To continue battling for a cure, Ms. Meier and her sixth graders at East Ridge Middle School will be hosting an Alzheimer’s Walk at the Recreation Center on June 16. Working with the RVNA, they hope to increase awareness and raise funds. They hope you will put this date on your calendar. Contact Darla Shaw, [email protected], 203-438-5441. If you would like to help in any way with the event.


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