COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
ABC 17 News Anchor Meghan Drakas is sharing her family's experience with Alzheimer's disease in the leadup to Columbia's Walk to End Alzheimer's on Saturday.
Alzheimer's disease affects over 6 million Americans and more than 120,000 people in Missouri.
It's a phone call that changed my life forever. My very first live shot at ABC 17 News and a day I'll never forget but for a very different reason. It was the day my grandmother died from Alzheimer's.
It was Jan. 14, 2021.
She was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2013 and battled the disease for years. It was the first time I experienced my grandmother forgetting things she would normally remember. She also got to a point where she needed help with everyday tasks such as getting dressed or brushing her hair.
When I moved to Missouri in December 2020, I knew it was likely the last time I would ever see her.
Just two months before, she celebrated her 82nd birthday, surrounded by family.
My grandmother, Barbara Early, was born in 1938 in the suburbs of Philadelphia. She had three children and five grandchildren.
Her diagnosis not only affected her, but our entire family.
In 2016, I joined the Sigma Kappa Sorority as a freshman at Penn State University. That's where I started my involvement with the Alzheimer's Association.
When I moved to Columbia, I joined the Columbia Walk to End Alzheimer's Committee. This year I'm serving as the marketing outreach chair for the walk and as the emcee on Saturday.
My story may sound all too familiar to the hundreds of thousands of Missourians who've had their own experiences with the disease and know the toll it can take on a family.
It's a disease that has no limits.
The ABC 17 News family has also been affected by Alzheimer's disease. ABC 17 News weekend evening anchor Hannah Falcon lost her family member John Elkins and her Great-Grandpa Dick to the disease.
Alzheimer's also affected ABC 17 News Stormtrack Meteorologist Chance Gotsch's grandmother, Mary Gotsch.
In turn, with all of our stories, our station has joined together, to hopefully one day see a world without Alzheimer's disease.
How to support the cause
Join ABC 17 News at the Columbia Walk to End Alzheimer's on Saturday at Faurot Field. Last year, the Columbia Walk raised $195,594. This year, the walk has a goal of $220,000.
As of 9:15 a.m. Friday, the walk had raised over $122,000.
Or join ABC 17 News at the Jefferson City Walk to End Alzheimer's on Oct. 15 at Memorial Park. Last year, the Jefferson City Walk broke its all-time record and raised nearly $134,000. This year, the walk has a goal of raising $140,000.